Fly tipping: Zero tolerance campaign in Buckinghamshire
PUBLISHED: 11:25 12 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:25 12 April 2016
Bucks is definitely not rubbish when it comes to catching lazy fly-tippers – we now convict 10 times more offenders than the average across England
The large amount of household waste strewn across roads in Newton Longville must have presented a sickening sight for residents of the ancient Bucks village. So sickening, in fact, that one of them contacted the authorities who sprang into action - first identifying, and then prosecuting, the owner of the rubbish.
The case, which came to court last October, was significant for two reasons. Firstly, it marked the landmark 500th conviction in an epic 12-year campaign of zero tolerance against fly-tippers which has saved Buckinghamshire taxpayers an estimated £3 million in clearance and disposal costs. Secondly, it provided more evidence for householders and businesses, if evidence was ever needed, that you don’t have to dump the waste yourself to be held responsible.
The Milton Keynes man prosecuted here pleaded guilty to offences relating to his ‘duty of care’. When interviewed at a police station, he denied dumping the waste himself, saying he had paid a ‘man with a van’ to remove it. He had not checked the man’s credentials and could do nothing to help investigators trace him. Nevertheless, he ended up with a criminal conviction and was ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £1,185.70.
“Many people think their duty has ended as soon as they get someone else to dump their waste,” said Enforcement Officer Chris Smith. “But as this conviction and countless others show, that is simply not the case. Householders are legally responsible for ensuring their household rubbish is only passed on to an authorised person for disposal. These regulations are designed to help reduce the amount of fly-tipping.”
Under the rules, householders must take all reasonable measures to make sure waste produced on their property is disposed of without endangering health or harming the environment. This applies to any type of waste that is unsuitable for disposal in your dustbin and unable to be taken as part of regular household waste collections. If illegally disposed-of waste is traced to your household, you could be fined up to £5,000 in a magistrates court.
“This may sound harsh to some, but the blight that fly-tipping brings to our idyllic Buckinghamshire countryside is horrific and if we are ever to stop this, everyone needs to take responsibility for how their own rubbish is disposed of,” adds Chris.
How it began
The result of the zero tolerance campaign is that Buckinghamshire is now leading the way on enforcement nationally - convicting 10 times more offenders than are being convicted on average across England. But this is all a far cry from when the ‘Illegal Dumping Costs’ campaign began in October 2003. At that point, fly-tipping levels were increasing by 10% each year. The toll on the environment was becoming too heavy and the authorities decided to they had to face the problem head-on.
The County Council, which is responsible for waste disposal, and the four Bucks district councils, who handle the bin collections, work together through the Waste Partnership for Buckinghamshire. Prosecuted offenders have paid thousands of pounds in fines and costs, and on average one fly-tipper is caught and convicted every week in the county. The campaign has massively reduced illegal dumping with levels of fly-tipping more than halving since the campaign began. In 2003, officials were disposing of more than 8,500 tonnes of waste fly-tipped on public land each year - that’s equivalent to a full-size football field one metre deep. Last year, they disposed of under 800 tonnes.
Both local residents and the experts who track down offenders have had a part to play. Mike Smith, Chairman of the Waste Partnership for Buckinghamshire, says: “Fly-tipping is a criminal offence. It’s anti-social and completely unnecessary given the excellent household waste recycling centres we have in all districts. Fly-tipped rubbish blights our beautiful countryside, causes pollution and presents a real danger to wildlife and people. It’s also very costly to remove, and is a financial burden that should not fall on taxpayers’ shoulders. At a time when all councils are having to make really tough financial decisions, the cost of clearing up after inconsiderate fly-tippers becomes an expense we can ill afford.
“We depend to a large extent on observant members of the public reporting incidents, so our success is very much down to their invaluable contribution, and I wish to thank them for their help.
“Our enforcement campaign is working and we need to keep the pressure on this. But just as important is education, particularly with children and young people – we need to help people understand the vast array of problems that fly-tipping brings not only to the countryside, but to urban communities too.”
Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, says: “We are regularly amazed and appalled in equal measure by the waste which people see fit to fly-tip. Household waste with food and old nappies; domestic clearance waste from building rubble, mattresses and sofas to old fridges; even commercial waste like tyres are regularly dumped across Buckinghamshire.
“Our teams work hard to gather sufficient evidence to prosecute offenders and we have convicted, on average, around one offender per week for the last six years; but the next offender statistic seems always to be just one thoughtless act away. However, our message to would-be fly-tippers is clear - if you dump rubbish in Buckinghamshire, not only are you very likely to be caught but you will have a criminal record as a result.”
The issue was discussed at February’s key County Council Cabinet meeting when Cllr Whyte reported the 500th fly-tipping conviction to colleagues. He told them there had been several more successful convictions since - including fines of around £1,100 to both a Maidenhead resident who dumped waste in Burnham, and a Flackwell Heath householder who fly-tipped on two occasions.
He added: “I do find the arrogance and selfishness of these people quite extraordinary; they think it quite all right to dump stuff on our verges and even in the middle of our roads, and I’m very pleased that the officers are able to prosecute successfully.”
Cllr Whyte pointed out that just the previous week, the National Trust had been forced to deal with fly-tipped waste near to the landscape gardens at Stowe in Buckingham.
Council Leader Martin Tett applauded the convictions and called for magistrates to give higher penalties. He told of finding waste in Shire Lane, South Bucks. He said: “The number of times I cycle down there and find waste literally dumped in the middle of the road – it’s unbelievable.”
Eyes and ears
Don’t put up with dumped rubbish – report it.
“One third of our convictions originate from witness reports, so you really are our ‘eyes and ears’,” said Chris Smith, Enforcement Officer. “And if you use a ‘man with van’, make sure you know who they are, so that if we find your waste dumped, you can identify them.”
You can take a wide range of waste to your local household recycling centre; find out more at www.buckscc.gov.uk/hwrc.
What is fly-tipping?
Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of waste. It can vary in scale from a single bin bag to large quantities dumped from trucks. Fly-tipping differs from littering in that it invariably involves a deliberate aim to dispose of waste unlawfully. According to waste officials, fly-tipping has a substantial environmental, social and financial impact on communities: it’s a local nuisance, blighting both the urban and rural landscape, and encouraging disease-carrying pests such as rats. The presence of fly-tipping also encourages further illegal dumping of waste. And it’s costly for councils to clear up.
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