Proper waste disposal is hardly a glamorous or an exciting topic of conversation and as such, many people do not give the criminal offence of fly tipping a second thought. Whether consciously or otherwise, they tend to consider the offence to be a minor one which doesn’t deserve their attention.
It is exactly that kind of apathy, however, which leads to incidents of fly tipping increasing and this is certainly something that should concern the public at large. In order to exemplify just why this is the case, this article will attempt to explain exactly what fly tipping is, how widespread and costly it can be and what legal ramifications offenders may face.
What Exactly is Fly Tipping?
Fly tipping is a criminal offence which is defined as the illegal deposit of waste on land contrary to Section 33 (1) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. That section reads as follows:
‘a person shall not deposit controlled waste or extractive waste, or knowingly cause or knowingly permit controlled waste or extractive waste to be deposited in or on any land unless an environmental permit authorising the deposit is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence.’
Types of fly tipping can range from the casual discarding of household waste to the large scale dumping of construction material, and also encompasses industrial and liquid waste. Fly tipping as an offence, then, is a fairly wide-ranging one and one which causes extensive problems throughout the country.
The Extent and Cost of Fly Tipping
According to the latest available statistics from DEFRA, local authorities in England dealt with 900 thousands incidents of fly tipping in the years 2014 and 2015. That represented a rise of around 5.6% from the previous two year period and generated an astonishing level of costs in more ways than one.
On the purely financial side, the same DEFRA statistics revealed that the estimated cost to local authorities of clearing fly tipped waste was nearly £50 million in 2014 and 2015. That, too, was then supplemented by a cost of £17.6 million for the authorities to take enforcement actions against those guilty of the offence.
It is not only in monetary terms that fly tipping takes a considerable toll, either. The illegal dumping of waste, after all, can inflict considerable costs on the environment, wildlife and public health. It is for that reason, therefore, that the offence can carry some significant penalties under UK law.
Enforcement and Penalties
Both local councils and the Environment Agency (EA) have legal responsibility for fly tipping, with councils dealing with most cases of illegal waste dumping on public land and the EA investigating and enforcing larger scale and more serious offences.
The smaller, individual cases can – as of May 2016 – be dealt with on the spot by the issuing of fixed penalty notices (FPN). These FPNs can be handed down to anyone caught in the act of fly tipping and can be set at a level of anywhere between £150 and £400.
More serious fly tipping offences, and especially those committed on a larger scale, can see the offender prosecuted in either the Magistrates or the Crown Court. If found guilty in Magistrates Court the offender is liable for a prison sentence of up to a maximum of 12 months and/or a fine on which no upper limit is fixed. In Crown Court, meanwhile, a fly tipping prosecution can lead to a prison term of up to five years and/or a similarly unlimited level of fine.