CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council is at the top of the leader board for the cost of dealing with illegal fly tipping in Wales ahead of Cardiff and Swansea.
The local authority which recorded the highest clearance costs (£563,545) for large fly-tipping incidents during the eight-year period was Carmarthenshire
BBC Shared Data Unit
The problem of fly tipping is a growing one according to the latest analysis of figures accessed by the BBC Shared Data Unit.
Council’s have increased costs for disposing of rubbish and in many cases have placed restrictions on how much rubbish can be deposited at their waste disposal and recycling centres.
As the economic climate for some, especially those on low income gets tougher, people are faced with looking for alternatives to dispose of their rubbish.
Organised criminal gangs are dumping lorry-loads of rubbish across the UK as part of an illegal waste clearing service. Residents can be duped into using what they believe to be legitimate contractors only to find that they themselves are taken through the courts when their rubbish is discovered on a fly tip.
BBC analysis found the number of incidents of large-scale fly-tipping has more than doubled since 2012.
Police and environmental groups say the nature of fly-tipping is changing – a shift driven by a surge in criminal gangs offering illegal waste clearing services.
Each year, councils across England and Wales collate the number, size and cost of illegal rubbish dumping in their areas. Anything above the size of a lorry-load can be investigated by the Environment Agency, though the cost of clearance lies with the local council.
While the total number of fly-tipping incidents in England has hovered around the one million mark in recent years, the largest type of tips – sometimes covering whole parks – has risen 117% since 2012.
The incidents are costly to clear and the BBC analysis has found councils have spent more than £59m on their removal since 2012.
Wales, on the other hand, has seen large fly-tipping decrease since 2012 – a trend which officials believe is down to the success of a national campaign.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating, clearing and taking appropriate enforcement action in relation to small-scale fly-tipping on public land.
However, local authorities and the Environment Agency have legal powers to require landowners to clear fly-tipped waste from their land.
They also have powers to enter the land and clear it and may seek reimbursement for costs related to it.
What are the penalties?
Fly-tipping is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment if convicted in a magistrates’ court.
The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years’ imprisonment if convicted in a crown court.
However, very few of the toughest sentences are handed out. Only two £50,000 fines were handed out in 2018-19.
There are also a number of other possible penalties, including fixed penalty notices and having a vehicle seized.
In Wales, from October 2017 the Unauthorised Deposit of Waste (Fixed Penalties) (Wales) Regulations 2017 introduced powers for local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices between £150 to £400 for fly-tipping waste offences. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, offenders can have assets frozen and confiscated.
Bucking the trend in England, costly large-scale fly-tipping incidents are decreasing in Wales:
The majority of local authorities across Wales (17) posted a decrease in the number of large fly-tipping incidents recorded between 2011-12 and 2018-19.
Carmarthenshire reported the biggest improvement. Having cleared 626 large tips in 2011-12, last year none were recorded.
Carmarthenshire saw the highest total number of major incidents over the eight years (3,124), followed by Cardiff (1,409) and Newport (735).
Only one area – Caerphilly – did not record having cleared any large tips.
Proportionally, Carmarthenshire had the highest average annual number of major incidents per capita – 21.1 incidents per 10,000 people per year.
Merthyr Tydfil had the second highest figure – 7.2 incidents per 10,000 people – followed by Newport, with 6.2 incidents.
Carmarthenshire recorded the highest average number of major tips cleared per year (390) during the period.
One other local authority – Cardiff – also registered an eight-year average which went into triple figures (176).
The local authority which recorded the highest clearance costs (£563,545) for large fly-tipping incidents during the eight-year period was Carmarthenshire.
It was followed by Cardiff (£279,205) and Newport (£260,422).
As a proportion of all fly-tipping incidents, Carmarthenshire had the highest percentage of major tip clean-up costs across the eight-year period (44.4 %)
It was followed by Flintshire (28.2%) and Newport (25.1%).
Wrexham had the lowest average proportional cost of clearing major incidents – 1.4%.
What the experts Say:
Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said:
“The rise in large scale fly-tipping incidents being reported each year is truly shocking.
“In 2016 Keep Britain Tidy published ‘Reaching the Tipping Point’ – an action plan to combat fly-tipping, as a direct response to the million incidents reported by local authorities every year.
“We called on government, local authorities and magistrates to work together to eradicate the scourge of fly-tipping which blights communities and harms local environments.
“Since then, a little progress has been made, but much more is required.
“The introduction of fixed penalty notices for minor fly-tipping offences and for householders who don’t make checks before giving waste to fly-tippers is a start.
“However, to tackle the larger scale crime, local authorities need to be properly resourced if we are to make a difference.
“This is particularly pertinent given that the cost of clearing up incidents like this is borne directly by local authorities and comes at a time when their budgets are under huge pressure.
“Of course, the substantial increase over time of larger fly-tipping incidents involving tipper trucks and multiple loads – particularly in London – is of real concern.
“It’s quite possible that these numbers represent the involvement of organised gangs in waste crime. If this is the case, then it’s time for the new government to get serious on mass fly-tipping, make it harder for criminals to trade, and give local authorities the resources they need to crack down on this blight on our communities and environment.”
Keep Britain Tidy wants to see a new five-point plan enacted:
- A complete overhaul of the waste carriers registration system, with a more robust system of application, which prevents criminals getting licences to carry waste on the road which only serves to give them an air of legitimacy
- A new national campaign to raise awareness of the issue of fly-tipping and ensure householders and businesses don’t hand over waste to fly-tippers
- All magistrates to issue more substantial fines. With over 90% of fines less than £1,000, it’s high time they started making greater use of their powers, imposing heavy fines, custodial sentences and seizing vehicles
- Local authorities given the finances and resources they need to not only track down and prosecute more criminals but also maintain easy-to-access recycling services for residents, to encourage people to dispose of waste legitimately
- And in the longer term make sure we build a more circular economy, keeping goods in operation for longer and making them more repairable so that we reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place.