Incidents of fly-tipping in England have risen at an astonishing rate during the Covid pandemic – and Suffolk is no exception.
A whopping 1.13 million cases of fly-tipping were recorded across England in 2020-21, costing the taxpayer £11.6m to clear. Suffolk suffered 4,612 cases – an increase of 43% from the previous year.
Fly-tipping is a crime that’s becoming worryingly more common in Suffolk and according to the experts, it’s not an easy problem to fix.
But why is fly-tipping continuing to ramp up in Suffolk and what can be done to prevent it?
One recent case of fly-tipping in Suffolk got the attention of Woodbridge residents when a pile of furniture was discovered dumped in the town in May.
The offending items – found in the Kyson Hill car park – included a three-piece sofa, microwave oven and bathroom cabinet.
Alona Ochert found the discarded furniture and was furious at how someone could ruin such a lovely area of Woodbridge.
She told the East Anglian Daily Times, “It riles me to the core!”
Based on 2019/20 data, East Suffolk gets the lion’s share of the county’s fly-tipping dumped on it, with almost three times as many incidents as other areas.
While faring a bit better, West Suffolk data suggests that around 75% of fly-tipping occurs in the same housing estates in Mildenhall, Nowton, Clements, Chalkstone, Chimswell, Brickfields and All Saints.
And it’s not just public areas being targeted by fly-tippers. Farmers are common victims of fly-tippers and unfortunately, the onus is on the landowners to clear it away.
It can cost as much as £10,000 to clear up serious incidents of fly-tipping from private land, according to the National Rural Crime Network, with the average bill coming in at around £1,000.
“It’s totally disheartening that somebody has so little respect for wildlife, nature and the community,” added Ochert. “Simply because they couldn’t be bothered to drive the three miles to the council dump!”
But unfortunately, the situation is far more complicated than opportunists simply avoiding an inconvenient trip to the local recycling centre…
One reason experts believe fly-tipping is on the rise is increased landfill taxes.
Landfill taxes are designed to dissuade waste handlers from sending rubbish to the dump, in the hope that they’ll turn to more eco-friendly alternatives, such as recycling.
The current standard landfill tax rate (as of April 2022) is £98.60 per tonne, with a significantly lower rate for inert or inactive waste at £3.15 per tonne.
But the National Audit Office (NAO) claims that high rates have actually incentivised criminals to fly-tip rather than pay to dispose of it legally.
NAO Head Gareth Davies says the country isn’t simply looking at a few cases of shoddy traders cutting corners.
He said, “The evidence available shows that waste crime is increasing, and organised criminals are becoming more involved.”
According to HM Revenue and Customs, around £200m of landfill tax was actively avoided in 2019-20.
The government is blaming the Covid-19 pandemic for the surge in fly-tipping in the UK, which has forced Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to focus its resources on more pressing matters.
But as fly-tipping rates spiral further out of control, so do the consequences…
Fly-tipping isn’t simply an expensive blight on our landscapes, it poses a serious health hazard to Suffolk residents.
Dumped waste can pollute rivers and contaminate land, endangering the health of both people and wildlife. It attracts pests such as rats that could carry disease and the smell can carry to nearby residential areas.
Children could come across sharp or hazardous materials in the abandoned rubbish, not to mention the risk to the waste workers who’ll end up having to clear it.
Furthermore, it undermines legitimate local businesses like SunSkips, which invest heavily in the proper disposal of waste to send as little to landfill as possible.
The urgent need to put a stop to fly-tipping before it gets completely out of control is clear, but what more can authorities do that they’re not already doing?
Fly-tipping is a waste crime that carries some hefty penalties, including unlimited fines and jail time of up to five years.
In April, a Woodbridge man was fined almost £2,500 for fly-tipping around 14 tonnes of waste in Ipswich.
Meanwhile, in Thetford, two residents landed themselves with fines totalling £845 for using an unlicensed waste collector who ended up dumping their waste on a country lane.
But despite the higher number of fly-tipping incidents, fixed-penalty notices actually dropped by 24% while prosecutions fell by more than 50%.
Environment Agency chief executive James Bevan said a new high-tech strategy is underway to catch the worst offenders.
He said, “Waste crime causes harm to people and places, and it is on the rise.
“We now share intelligence on criminals with our partners, resulting in more than 2,500 illegal waste sites being shut down permanently in the last three years.
“This is not an easy fight – but with the support of our partners we are determined to keep one step ahead of the criminals, shut them out of the system and move us towards an economy in which there is no space for waste crime.”
At the local level, the #SCRAPflytipping campaign is being promoted by councils, including Suffolk Waste Partnership, to educate residents on how to be vigilant against fly-tippers.
Help prevent fly tipping⚠️
Keep all paperwork for any waste that you have taken away📜
— EnvAgencyAnglia (@EnvAgencyAnglia) March 18, 2020
This is solid advice. But with incidents on the rise, it might be time for more drastic measures to keep communities clean…
It’s unsurprising that authorities are looking beyond waste carrier licences and paperwork to end fly-tipping in their neighbourhoods once and for all.
One council in Gosport has proposed a controversial plan to provide the public with free skips to solve the problem of fly-tipping, at an estimated cost of £45,570 every year.
The Environment Agency has begun monitoring criminal communications and teaming up with waste management companies to weed out the criminals threatening their businesses.
Harsher penalties have been proposed to deter criminals and stop them considering fines as affordable business expenses. Longer prison sentences have also been called for.
There are plans to make it harder to obtain a waste carrier licence, which is currently just a simple case of registering, that involves background checks and a technical competence requirement.
But one of the biggest tools we can use in the fight against fly-tipping is simply to generate less waste in the first place and move towards a circular economy that’ll rob criminals of opportunities and keep Suffolk a fly-tipping free zone.
SunSkips urges those in need of waste disposal services in Suffolk to check that their provider is reputable and holds a valid waste carrier’s licence. Give SunSkips a call on 01449 360 036 and let us take care of your waste the legal and environmentally friendly way.