Fly-tipping soars during pandemic while enforcement falls

Fly-tipping incidents surged during the first year of the pandemic while local authority enforcement actions, fixed penalty notices and fines handed out by the courts all fell, according to new data from DEFRA.

The figures, published this week, show that between April 2020 and March 2021, local authorities in England dealt with 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents — an increase of 16% from the 980,000 reported in 2019/20.

As in the previous year, just under two thirds (65%) of fly-tips involved household waste.

DEFRA said factors including the disruption to waste collection services caused by the pandemic and the widespread closure of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) may have contributed to the increased levels of fly-tipping.

The department added that staff shortages, staff being furloughed, and staff being redeployed may also have impacted on the number of enforcement actions which were carried out during 2020/21. 

Courts were also closed at certain points of the reporting period which several local authorities said impacted on the number of prosecution actions undertaken.

The Countryside Alliance said it would urge local authorities to “think very carefully” about preventing access to HWRCs in future.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the government, local authorities, police and the Environment Agency need to work better together on sharing information to ensure more offenders were prosecuted.

 NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts described the figures as “incredibly disappointing, particularly when the number of local authority enforcement actions, fixed penalty notices and fines handed out by the courts to offenders are all down”. 

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said she expected the fly-tipping figures to rise significantly due to a combination of factors caused by the pandemic and last year’s spring lockdown.

However she said the figures were “still incredibly disappointing and we, as a country, need to do more to educate the public about how to get rid of unwanted stuff safely and legally”.

The figures published by DEFRA do not include the large-scale, illegal dumping dealt with by the Environment Agency.

This data was published last month and also suggested that enforcement levels had plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic.