Fly-tipping is a term used to describe the illegal dumping of any rubbish onto land that is not a licensed disposal site.

When people leave bags of rubbish, used mattresses and electrical junk at the side of the street, it creates an eyesore for the whole area and can present a major environmental hazard. Serious cases of fly-tipping occur when people dump multiple truckloads of demolition, construction or chemical waste onto protected land.

In many cases, illegal waste disposal presents a risk to the public, especially if the waste contains contaminated or toxic materials, such as asbestos. Serious damage to the water table and soil quality in the area can be caused by mass-scale, uncontrolled fly-tipping.

Between 2016 and 2017 over one million cases of fly-tipping were reported in England and subserviently cleaned up by local authority councils. Reports suggest that the estimated cost of dealing with all those incidences topped £58 million.

In the UK, fly-tipped is classified as a criminal offence and people who are caught can face prosecution. Some of the ways in which the courts can deal with offenders include imprisonment, heavy fines and the removal of driving licences. Fines can exceed
£50,000 depending on how much damage was caused to the environment.

I saw a person fly-tipping, what should I do?

If the waste was dumped onto your private land, it is your responsibility to deal with the waste and cover all costs associated with the cleanup.

You can report the incident to the Environment Agency and/or a local authority. Either of those bodies can provide you with information and guidance as to how best to dispose of the waste.

You need to decide whether to pay a company to take the waste away in skip bags or take the waste to a registered waste disposal facility yourself. If you can’t deal with waste immediately, it’s important to make sure it is contained, so it can not damage another person, vehicle or property if the wind picks up.

If you hire someone to take the waste away, you need to ensure they are a registered waste carrier. You can check this by calling the Environment Agency’s general enquires line on 08708 506506.

Do you know why fly-tippers targeted your land? If your land is easily accessible from the roadside, you might want to put up a fence and/or an alarm system to make it less susceptible to future opportunists.

How do you ensure your own waste to not fly-tipped?

Many local authorities provide a collection service for bulky waste, such as sofas, fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers and more. You should contact your council for more details.

Most local authority council now operate garden waste collection services. You can pay an annual fee to get a separate wheelie bin for garden waste. Alternatively, you can start composting the waste in your garden.

Commercial waste is subject to tight regulations. If you own a business in England, you are legally required to have a contract with a licenced waste carrier to ensure correct waste disposal. If you plan to take business waste to a local landfill or tip, you need to ensure the site is registered to deal with commercial waste. Then, you must pay landfill tax and a possible gate fee.

If you ask a professional contractor, such as a builder or plumber, to take away waste as part of their work on your property, you need to ensure this third party is a registered waste carrier. Request to see their certificate before they start the job. You can also contact the Environment Agency to check.

Report It

Dumping rubbish on any unregistered site is illegal. Always report it. This will ensure the waste is swiftly removed and your report could help to identify and catch the people responsible for the crime.

If you see fly-tipping, you should make a note of the time, date and location of the incident. It would also be handy to make a note of the fly-tipper’s vehicle registration number and a description of their appearance. All these details can help with a criminal investigation.

The Environment Agency and the local authority both have the power to deal with fly-tipping. They will have an agreed protocol for addressing all issues surrounding the problem. In general, local authorities deal with minor fly-tipping incidents, whereas large scale, serious fly-tipping crimes are dealt with by the Environment Agency.