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Grot Spot Britain: The sheer scale of a fly-tipping epidemic

An ITV News investigation has revealed fly-tipping is on the rise in some parts of the UK.

Out of 264 councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request, Haringey in London topped a list of 20 councils with the highest number of reports, with almost 40,000.

I was standing next to a 100 meter long, 9 foot high pile of stinking rubbish when the reason for our Grot Spot coverage crystallised in my mind. This is so selfish, thoughtless and anti-social we all have to do something to stop the fly-tippers.

As we filmed for our series of reports, I saw everything from medical waste through to dumped cuddly toys. Whether it is a bin bag full or a lorry load - whether it is in a city centre or a country lane.... Illegal waste is blighting our communities.

Our investigation had co-operation from hundreds of local councils. The fly-tipping figures they released to us reveal the sheer scale of the problem across Britain.

Local authorities are on the frontline, trying to prevent illegal dumping and to catch the culprits. I researched a range of innovative techniques being used - from hidden cameras to the use of "smart water" technology and electronic tracking devices. What's disappointing is that even when people are caught they are often escaping lightly, prison sentences and higher-scale fines remain rare.

Bags of rubbish piled up high in Birmingham. Credit: ITV News

Councils are to be applauded for all they do to fight fly-tippers. At a time when local authority budgets are under such strain, it's sad that tens of millions of pounds is having to be diverted to deal with fly-tipping.

We would all want every penny to be spent improving local services - instead a substantial sum is drained as officers deal with the mess left behind by a small minority of people.

Our investigation raises some important questions about whether Britain has the right policies to deal with illegal waste. Our findings show that many councils have added to the fees charged at local tips. There have also been decreases in opening times at some - closure of others. The reduced frequency of household dustbin collections is a factor in very many areas.

Some local residents I met believe these policies are already backfiring, because they can encourage fly-tipping. There can be no excuse for illegal dumping, but we must take great care to ensure policies don't unintentionally add to the problem.

Mattresses and other items left abandoned in one area. Credit: ITV News

You'd think that travelling around Britain to see its worst fly-tipping hot spots would be a depressing exercise. In fact, I've come away feeling much brighter. That's because I've met so many people who are proud of their local areas. Residents who are so determined to improve their communities that they are forming their own fly-tipping patrols and tidy-up expeditions.

The unexpected twist of an investigation into anti-social dumpers was that, in the end, it made me feel better because of all the good people I met along the way.