TIME TO TACKLE THE FLY-TIPPING EPIDEMIC
Published 28 May 2023
It was a situation which will be depressingly familiar to most farmers: visiting a client last week, we turned onto a roadside concrete pad to find two bulk bags filled with detritus, and a pile of household waste beside them, writes Tom Corfield.
More than 10,000 instances of fly-tipping occur every year in Norfolk (and that figure applies only to incidents on public land, and not the many thousands more which happen on private land), and as always, it was the farmer who had to go to the trouble and expense of clearing up this mess.
When incidents of fly-tipping occur on private land, it is the landowner’s responsibility to remove the illegally dumped waste, even if it contains hazardous materials such as asbestos. What other crime is there where we make the victim responsible for the results?
Last year Norfolk councils issued just 68 fixed penalty notices, which means that 99.32% of those crimes went unpunished. Fly-tipping is not just an inconvenience and expense for farmers – it presents a threat to human and animal health, and undermines the safety of those who live and work in rural areas.
It is high time that the authorities took the problem more seriously and the level of fines increased. Whilst it is a criminal offence, there are some concrete steps which they could take to tackle fly-tipping.
The first is to investigate incidents properly when they do occur. Too often we hear of authorities being reluctant to act, even when there is good evidence of who the perpetrator is (in many cases you only have to root through the rubbish to find documents with a name and address on). If tippers knew there is a good chance they will be tracked down and prosecuted, they might think twice.
Secondly, we need to educate the public about the menace of unlicensed and unscrupulous waste disposal operators. Waste can only be carried by registered carriers, and only disposed of at licensed sites. If the public always asked to see those licenses before entrusting their rubbish to contractors, that would go some way to limiting the problem.
The third solution is to make it easier and more accessible for people to dispose of waste legally. When people are turned away at recycling centres because of petty or unnecessarily draconian rules, it is inevitable that a proportion will simply dump their waste somewhere illegally (in a lot of cases just up the road from the recycling centre!) – and clearing up that mess costs far more than simply accepting it at the tip in the first place.
The NFU encourages farmers to report every instance of fly-tipping, to help build up an accurate picture of what everyone knows is a huge problem. This is good advice – but it will only be useful if the authorities then act on that information. Our farmers shouldn’t be expected to spend their time and money clearing up someone else’s mess.
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