Mounds of mattresses, heaps of hoardings and stacks of stagnating rubbish are scarring Britain’s landscape as lawless fly-tippers run amok.
Alleyways have been deluged and farmland and country lanes deemed up for grabs as illegal dumping has rocketed more than 500%.
It seems anything and everything is being tipped – even caravans filled with trash.
A worrying Sunday Mirror probe found:
Prime offenders are waste clearance outfits and dodgy builders avoiding typical £100-per-ton fees at landfill sites.
Latest figures show a million fly-tipping incidents were recorded in a year. And the problem got a whole lot worse in lockdown.
Figures from ClearWaste, which collects data on fly-tipping, show a 526% rise in incidents in just one four-month spell.
Courts can impose an unlimited fine or a five-year jail term for the worst offenders.
But ClearWaste found most councils didn’t prosecute anyone for fly-tipping in the last financial year. And 33 local authorities didn’t issue a single fine over the same period.
ClearWaste founder Martin Montague said: “Britain is drowning under a sea of illegally dumped rubbish which blights our towns, cities and countryside.”
Most recent government data shows the trash logged in just one year.
Fly-tipping has been increasing steadily since 2012 as councils have had to slash waste services due to swingeing budget cuts.
Experts believe the closure of rubbish dumps during Covid, plus increased work on homes, helped the problem run out of control.
Many councils – like Oldham, Somerset, East Devon, Warwick and Bracknell Forest – only empty the bins every three weeks.
In the past week, Stirling Council in Scotland became the latest local authority to move to monthly bin collections.
Residents in Falkirk, north of the border, and Conwy, Wales, also now have non-recyclable waste collected monthly.
Waste services could be slashed again in 2022/23 – with Unison predicting a £3billion black hole in local authority finances.
Mike Short, the union’s head of local government, said: “Weekly collections are increasingly rare. Some authorities moved to fortnightly, three weekly or monthly collections, with charges for some services.
“Most services are outsourced. Providers win those contracts based on how cheap they are.”
He said fees for removing big items are a factor. Disposing of a large fridge in Bromley, South London, will cost £127 – after navigating a 186-point spreadsheet and four-page form.
Mr Short added: “It’s not surprising to see councils increasing charges and fees. But the cost could lead to fly-tipping.”
Keith Williams, of the GMB union, said a lack of HGV drivers has hit refuse collections. There are health issues too. UK rat numbers increased from 120million in 2019 to 150million last year as they feasted on lockdown trash, according to Pest.co.uk.
Ian Williams, a professor of applied environmental science at the University of Southampton, says tipping can be deadly. He worked on a study which showed dumping rose 300% in rural areas in April last year.
He said: “Fly-tipping causes pollution and is a health threat.
"Hazardous waste, like asbestos, is potentially life threatening. If you turf fridges and freezers out of a van, pipes will break and you’ release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Vermin and flies congregate, especially if there is food contamination.
“Smaller mammals can become trapped in tipped materials and consequences for hedgerows are significant because you block light, preventing growth. This has an impact on things such as pollination.”
Some landowners are under fly-tipping siege. In June last year, 75 tonnes of rubbish was cleared from a field in Uxbridge, West London.
Weeks later, 40 tonnes of waste was ditched on a Lincolnshire farm. In Hampshire, tippers abandoned their truck after it got stuck in mid-air while unloading.
In December, seven caravans filled with waste were dumped in the countryside near Cottenham, Cambs, filled with personal belongings and white goods. Taxpayers paid the £2,000 removal costs.
This month, a truck dumped 40 tonnes on an industrial estate in Woolston, Cheshire, while another caravan full of pushchairs and wardrobes was dumped by the A40 near Beaconsfield, Bucks.
Richard Bramley, chair of the environment forum at the National Farmers’ Union, said: “We’ve had fairly horrific reports of lorryloads at night. Farmers take pride in their patch and this industrial scale littering really does irk them.
"It’s astonishing we have to put up with it. We need a national strategy and website for reporting incidents to find hotspots. A fine can be less than skip hire cost – hardly a deterrent.”
David Renard, Local Government Association environment spokesman, said: “Fly-tipping is inexcusable and an eyesore costing taxpayers £50million a year. It could be spent on vital services.
“With councils battling 20,000 incidents of fly-tipping a week, we call on the Government in the spending review to ensure councils have funding and flexibility to tackle this scourge.
“We also urge a sentencing review to ensure those caught and prosecuted receive significant fines to deter them from spoiling parks, highways and verges again – and to help offset the huge costs to councils.”
The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs says fly-tipping prosecutions were 2,170 in 2012-13 and 2,944 in 2019-20. A spokesman said: “Prosecutions have increased 87% since 2016, with councils achieving a 98% conviction rate and more than 75,000 fixed penalty notices issued in 2019-20.
“There’s more to do. We are committed to overhauling and improving the waste carrier, broker and dealer regime through increased checks, as well as mandatory electronic waste tracking.”Read More Read More