There are few things as certain to provoke fury in rural communities than the scourge of fly-tipping. Bin bags, household rubbish and even industrial waste dumped in gate ways, laybys and on green fields. Many of us know the utter frustration of coming across deposits left by vans and trucks which tend to cruise country lanes in the early hours looking for somewhere to shed their loads.
Yesterday the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) released figures showing that there were almost 1.1 million incidents of fly-tipping in 2018 a rise of 8% on the previous year. Nearly two thirds of cases last year involved the dumping of household rubbish, typically on road verges and pavements. The most common volume was a small van load followed by an amount that can fit into a car boot.
Sadly, we believe this rise was predictable and directly linked to policy decisions made in local government. For many years we have been telling anyone willing to listen that the single biggest factor in tackling fly-tipping is making the legal disposal of waste easier.
Improving access to Civic Amenity Sites, extending their opening hours, creating more locations where waste can be disposed and simplifying admission policies and prices are all important. As is the provision of accessible and affordable waste removal services for both homes and businesses.
By encouraging and facilitating the lawful disposal of waste it is obvious that you remove some of the drivers that lead people to dispose of it unlawfully. Robust enforcement action and punitive fines send a warning to those who do break the law, but we would all rather offences did not take place so that such actions were not necessary.
Unfortunately, in recent years many councils have increased their fees for collecting furniture and other bulk waste. Some also still impose ridiculous restrictions, like turning people away from a site because they live the wrong side of a county boundary, on the use of Civic Amenity Sites. Unthinking policies such as these have contributed towards the increased incidence of fly-tipping.
They are also a completely false economy. The cost to councils of clearing up fly-tipping (if it does not fall on private landowners) and the cost of investigating and prosecuting those responsible far outweigh any savings made in the disposal of waste. Local government needs to take a joined up and holistic approach to waste disposal and fly-tipping if we are to get rid of this appalling blight on the countryside.