Fly-tipping: The facts and penalties

Everybody working in the waste industry has come up against fly-tipping at some time in their careers. In fact, it can easily be described as a plague.

According to UK government statistics, there were 852,000 fly-tipping incidents dealt with by UK councils in the year 2013/14, an average of over 2,300 every day. About half of these were at the roadside, and a third on bridleways, footpaths and back alleyways.

Nearly two-thirds on reported incidents involve dumped household waste, and around 30 per cent were said to involve a vanload or less. The cost to local authorities was £45.2 million, or approximately £2 on every household’s annual council tax bill.

Such is the extent of the problem and drain on council resources that could be employed elsewhere, there were 500,000 enforcement actions in the same period, costing £17.2 million. That’s an increase of nearly 20% year-on-year.

While the majority of incidents involve household waste, this includes waste from small-scale domestic home improvement works such as plumbing, building, gardening and plastering. A substantial number of council enforcement actions are against traders who have dumped waste rather than paying the mandatory landfill taxes.
Fly-tips, as many in the industry know, are particularly awkward to clear up as there is the risk that the reason the waste was dumped in the first place was because it contained hazardous waste such as asbestos or chemicals which require specialist arrangements for their handling. Thus, it becomes easier, and cheaper, for the fly-tipper to dump the waste and let the taxpayer pick up the bill.

That’s why the maximum penalties were increased in 2014 to deter both individuals and companies who fly-tip. The maximum penalty for individuals is now £95,000, but in practice, the average fine is around £1,000 for first offenders without aggravating circumstances.

For companies that are repeat or dangerous offenders, the maximum fine is now £3 million. In theory, penalties can be unlimited for companies under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, particularly in there in contamination or injury, with the potential for prison sentences for those concerned.

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