Fly Tipping: Britain's Rubbish Nightmare

Local authorities in England deal with over a million fly tipping incidents each year, and across the UK more than two million pieces of litter are dropped every single day.

Latest government data has revealed that fly tipping incidents involving large lorry sized vehicles have increased by 13%, with 42,000 reports in the space of just one year. Hoads Wood in Kent is a site of special scientific interest and used to be a haven for wildlife. But in recent years, it has been targeted by waste criminals, operating on an enormous scale.

A local resident agreed to speak to the Tonight programme, but he asked not to be identified from fear of reprisal. He first noticed suspicious activity in August last year. He tells us that on some days between twenty to thirty big eight wheeler lorries were seen carrying tonnes of illegal waste to the woodland. Many locals reported the lorries to the authorities, but it took until January this year before the Environment Agency finally locked down the site, placing down concrete blocks to prevent access. 

Tonight captured drone footage which reveals a huge clearing in the woodland, where the trees have been felled to make way for the illegally dumped landfill waste.

Nicky Britton-Williams from Kent Wildlife Trust says that some of the damage done to the ancient woodland can’t be undone.

“It's not just the localised impacts here at Hoads Wood that are at stake, it's the wider environment as well…it’s an ecological catastrophe” -  Nicky Britton-Williams, Kent Wildlife Trust 

Ashford Borough Council told Tonight they were fully aware of the problem at Hoads Wood. They said they can’t comment further as there’s an ongoing investigation. The Environment Agency, who are leading the investigation, told Tonight that they are steadfast in their fight against waste criminals.

Britain’s issue with rubbish isn’t just bigger loads being fly tipped, we also have a problem with littering.

In 2016, paddle boarder Lizzie Carr landed a record as the first person to have solo paddle boarded the entire length of England’s connected waterways. During her 400 mile journey, she recorded around twenty thousand pieces of litter. She then went on to launch an app, encouraging people to monitor litter across the UK and beyond. Half a million pieces of litter pollution have since been recorded on it.

Last year’s data from the app has now been analysed. The data provided exclusively to ITV’s Tonight programme shows that metal drinks cans are now the most prevalent litter type, surpassing plastic for the first time.

This is the first year that the top spot has been occupied by a non-plastic item. 

However plastic as a material is still the highest share of litter, occupying all other top five spots.

1. Can - 15.12%

2. Plastic fragment - 13.03%

3. Plastic Bottle - 12.52%

4. Plastic packaging - 7.41%

5. Plastic Bag - 6.69%

6. Glass Bottle - 4.75%

7. Crisp packet - 3.19%

8. Plastic bottle lid - 2.54%

9. Sweet wrapper - 2.02%

10. Cigarette Butt - 1.97%

35% of all litter recorded in the data is from the beverage industry. Lizzie is calling for the Government to reconsider a ‘Deposit Return Scheme’, whereby when you buy a drink you pay a small deposit, which you get back when you return the reusable bottle or can.

Lucy Verasamy reports. Fly Tipping: Britain’s Rubbish Nightmare Thursday 11th April at 8:30pm on ITV1. It is then available on catch up on ITVX.

Useful links:How to report fly tipping 

Find out how to recycle household waste in your area 

How you can get involved in Planet Patrol Litter Clean Ups