With the country facing potentially many more weeks in lockdown, it’s clear a large number of households are using the spare time indoors to carry out DIY jobs both inside the home and in the garden.
Naturally, this is leading to an excess amount of waste which people are keen to dispose of quickly. However, Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown has meant that a reported 90% of recycling and refuse centres have been closed.
Speaking to MPs, it has been reported that the Housing and Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick has said: "Our bin men and women have done a fantastic job maintaining the vast majority of collections,” and went on to say: “Today I can announce that I am asking councils to plan the organised opening of household waste collection sites."
A number of reports across the country have indicated a rise in the number of fly-tipping cases, despite the calls from the Countryside Alliance and local authorities to keep activity which may generate excess waste to a minimum. Figures from waste dumping reporting app ClearWaste show that overall fly-tipping is up 76 per cent, with some London boroughs facing a 100 per cent rise in the crime.
The Countryside Alliance has received concerns from a number of areas including Burnley, County Durham, Winchester, Derbyshire, Dorset, Somerset and Essex about the crime in recent weeks after images showed huge piles of stinking waste dumped in areas surrounding closed refuse centres as well as other natural beauty spots.
For a number of years, the Countryside Alliance has campaigned to raise awareness of the damage fly-tipping does to the countryside, which it argues causes major destruction for rural communities, the environment and wildlife.
The current situation is proving to be even more damaging for farmers across the UK as they are doubly hit. Farmers have a legal responsibility to clear up waste that is dumped on their land. The average clean-up operation costs them £800 a time and this doesn’t include any costs incurred to mend fencing, or to install additional security.
In a statement, Sarah Lee Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance said: “With no near end to the lockdown in sight, local authorities will need to assess the feasibility of re-opening recycling and refuse centres as matter of urgency. While it does seem like re-opening centres is the most obvious answer to stopping fly-tipping, social distancing guidelines and staff safety will no doubt form a big part in the decision to re-open. We also can’t risk people filling up a car with rubbish and being turned away only for it to then be dumped elsewhere, illegally because centres can’t cope.
The re-opening of recycling centres by larger local authorities like Wigan, will serve as an important case study for other local authorities. If successful, other authorities may be more likely to re-open their centres too. We really hope it’s a success as it’s becoming clear we cannot go on like this.”
She added: “Until an official decision is made by individual local authorities, if people need to hire a private refuse collection service, please ensure they are a registered waste collector first. We are fully aware that rogue operators profit from charging cheap fees, who then dump the rubbish in the countryside. They often advertise on social media and offer deals that some find tempting. In reality, this comes at a massive cost to both the environment and tax-payer. Please also plan any activity which may produce excess waste in accordance with the relevant collection advice from your local authority. There can never be an excuse for fly-tipping, please help us stop it”.
The Countryside Alliance will continue to monitor the case over the upcoming weeks.