Rise in fly-tipping results in £50 million clearance bill

Piles of rubbish have been dumped at this site in Manchester. Credit: ITV News
  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Almost £50 million of taxpayers' money was spent clearing more than 900,000 cases of fly-tipping in England in the last year, a rise in the number of incidents for the third year in a row.

In the latest figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), there were 936,090 cases of fly-tipping reported in 2015-2016, an increase of more than 36,000 cases - or four percent - on the year before.

Of the 936,090 cases of fly-tipping, only 2,135 - or 0.2% - resulted in prosecution.

Roads were the most popular places to dump rubbish, with more than half - 470,161 - cases of fly-tipping taking place on or at the side of roads.

A third of all incidents consisted of a quantity of material equivalent to a "small van load".

There were also 154,268 incidents of fly-tipping reported on footpaths and bridleways, 147,693 cases reported on council land, and 101,611 cases in alleyways.

Clearing the dumped rubbish from across England cost cost £49,809,823 and enforcement costs were £16,908,788, a total cost of £66,718,611.

However, this is a fall of more than £664,000 in cost from the previous year, when the total cost to councils in England was more than £68 million, of which more than £50 million was spent on clearance costs.

Enfield in north London was the worst place in the country for fly-tipping with more than double the cases than anywhere else in England.

The council saw 70,930 cases of fly-tipping, more than double the 34,975 cases experienced by Haringey Council, also in London.

Enfield's clear-up costs were more than £2.7 million.

London was area worst hit by fly-tipping with six of the top 10 councils worst hit by fly-tipping in the capital.

Outside of the capital, Manchester was the area worst hit by fly-tipping with 22,251 cases, costing them almost £2.2 million.

A spokesperson for Defra said: “Fly-tipping blights communities and poses a risk to human health and the environment, which is why we are committed to tackling this anti-social behaviour so everyone can enjoy a cleaner, healthier country."

The new figures do not yet show if new powers for councils to hand out "on-the-spot" fines of up to £400 for fly-tipping incidents, which came into force in May 2016, have helped reduce the problem.

Campaigners have warned that financial pressure on local councils had caused some waste collection services to be cut, which people had "taken as a licence to dump their waste illegally".

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), branded the results "shocking but not surprising. Local authorities are fighting a daily battle with criminal fly-tippers".

They continued: "There needs to be a review of England's struggling waste management systems, with a new ambitious programme to haul them into the 21st century.

"We cannot afford to waste our valuable resources in this way."

These statistics are shocking but not surprising. Local authorities are fighting a daily battle with criminal fly-tippers

During a recent Grot Spot Britain series carried out by ITV News, some people cited rubbish disposal fees charged by council dumps as the reason behind the increase in fly-tipping.

In Manchester, where fly-tipping is a particular problem - it is the worst affected area outside of London - there have been calls to remove costs and restrictions from council dumps amid claims people aren't using official waste disposal sites "because they don't think they should be charged for removal of their waste".

Leonie Painter, from Manchester, told ITV News: "Fly-tipping's increasing daily. The council want people to use tips but they're not doing it because they don't think they should be charged."

Another issue for those wanting to get rid of rubbish is that there are huge differences in the fees councils charge for disposing of rubbish in council dumps.

Examples of fee differences include:

  • Soil costs £4 to dump in West Sussex compared to £1.50 in Dorset

  • Tyres cost £5 to dump in Surrey compared to £3.20 in Cornwall

  • Rubble costs £4.70 to dump in Norfolk compared to £2 in Northumberland

Speaking on behalf of local authorities the Local Government Association (LGA) explained the fees, saying "councils want to work with households so that they can dispose of reasonable household waste easily and cost-effectively" but they are experiencing "funding pressures".

The LGA said: “Councils already provide a range of bulky waste collection services, which are often free and picked-up from people’s doorsteps.

"However, when items which are clearly inappropriate are taken to household recycling centres - for example excessive amounts of DIY waste such as rubble - they may charge for a limited range of materials to avoid abuse of facilities intended for use by households, and to offset the high cost of disposing of items that would otherwise fall to council tax payers.”

Consumer Editor Chris Choi at a popular fly-tipping spot in Manchester. Credit: ITV News

Top 10 worst fly-tipping areas

The top 10 councils with the most reports of fly-tipping - and the subsequent clear up cost to the council - are:

  • Enfield - 70,930 reported cases - £2,707,361 clearance costs

  • Haringey - 34,975 reported cases - £1,743,788 clearance costs

  • Newham - 32,718 reported cases - £1,491,719 clearance costs

  • Manchester - 22,251 reported cases - £2,149,099 clearance costs

  • Southwark - 21,359 reported cases - £808,757 clearance costs

  • Liverpool - 20,016 reported cases - £979,402 clearance costs

  • Hounslow - 19,809 reported cases - £487,290 clearance costs

  • Leeds - 15,531 reported cases - £1,013,460 clearance costs

  • Brent - 13,198 reported cases - £716,162 clearance costs

  • Birmingham - 12,348 reported cases - £597,819 clearance costs

In our recent Grot Spot Britain series, ITV News looked at the problem of fly-tipping in the UK.