Updated: Aug 29
The latest official fly-tipping statistics have been released today by Defra, and on the face of it – there’s some encouraging news! With overall incidents down 4% against last year’s high, including a 9% reduction in household waste incidents and a 5% reduction in fly-tipping on the national highway’s - this could be the start of a downward trend.
Figure 1: Total number of fly-tipping incidents in England, 2015/16 to 2021/22
“local authorities in England dealt with 1.09 million fly-tipping incidents, a decrease of 4% from the 1.14 million reported in 2020/21.” Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fly-tipping-in-england/fly-tipping-statistics-for-england-2021-to-2022
The data suggests that one reason could be the highest ever fixed penalty notices issued in a single 12-month period: 507,000 enforcements (up 11% on last year). In addition, the number of court fines issued also “nearly tripled” against 2020/21
This is a very encouraging sign that local authorities have stepped up investigations to ensure fly-tipping criminals are penalised for their crimes.
“The number of fixed penalty notices issued was 91,000 in 2021/22, an increase of 58% from 57,700 in 2020/21. This is the second most common action after investigations and accounted for 18% of all actions in 2021/22.” Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fly-tipping-in-england/fly-tipping-statistics-for-england-2021-to-2022
Despite this positive outlook, there are still major causes for concern.
Inconsistencies in reporting; the data includes levels of inconsistencies across locals authorities with the report stating “many local authorities have changed the way they capture and report fly-tips over the past few years, so the changes over time should still be interpreted with some care”, whilst in the main, data trends have been used to legislate for these inconsistencies, the major challenge is that the data does not include the vast majority of fly-tipping incidents that occur on private land. These incidents can be far larger in size and scale causing significant cost and operational downtime for businesses across the UK. Understanding this impact is crucial, to be sure that the place for illegal fly tipping has not simply ‘moved’ from local authority managed areas to private land owners.
The number of incidents is still far too many; 1.09 million incidents is still the second highest number of incidents recorded in a single year since 2009-10, with the highest since that period being last year which included Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown. I would have hoped that such a strong period of increased penalty notices and court fines would have had a bigger impact, potentially that will be demonstrated in the 2022-2023 figures as the data set includes incidents recorded up until March 2022.
POP’s! Given the recent implementation of POP’s (Persistent Organic pollutants) guidance and the landfill ban from January 2023, it remains to be seen how much impact this will have on fly-tipping incidents in the future. The full impact may not be understood until the EA implements enforcements (expected to be from August 23), and despite local authorities stating they have not seen an immediate increase in fly-tipping, it will take some time for restrictions to impact on local authority HWRC’s and the general public.
It is my hope that the increase of fixed penalties and court fines continue and that this contributes to a higher rate in reduction of fly tipping, it is also positive to see that despite some councils initially refusing to take sofas and soft furnishings containing POP’s, they have now re-opened their doors.
As ever, the challenge with data is that it takes time to build up, therefore the commercial sector should adopt digital technology to develop consistent incident reporting of their own to ensure we have the full picture of this waste crime activity so that we can implement appropriate measures to eradicate it. For now local authorities, the EA and private/commercial land owners have to deal with the fall-out, a messy, challenging and expensive job that costs the tax-payer in excess of 10 million pounds a year!