What is fly-tipping?
Fly-tipping is the disposal of municipal, industrial, commercial or other waste in an illegal manner. It is the pile of rubbish you see dumped at the side of the road, in a farmer's field or in the grounds of abandoned buildings. Fly-tipping is everywhere.
What's the scale of the problem?
I see evidence of fly-tipping everywhere, some places are hit worse than others. Kent for example seems to be the epicentre of a fly-tipping tsunami! Driving down the back roads of the county you often come across piles of rubbish at the roadside, or see the tops of waste mountains visible over the hedgerows as you shoot past. To really appreciate how bad it is in Kent, take to the air courtesy of Google Earth and you will be amazed at the vast mounds of rubbish dotted around the landscape.
Just recently my team and I were tasked with securing a site outside of Chatham (Kent) that had been targeted by fly-tippers. Over one weekend the equivalent waste of a small town was dumped on private land just off a busy road.
Unfortunately this wasn’t an isolated incident. The problem seems to be getting worse. Government Fly-tipping statistics for England, 2020/21 show the extent of the problem with 1.13 million incidents recorded, an increase of 16% on the previous year.
The majority of fly-tipping incidents consist of rubbish loads that would fit conveniently in the back of a small van, or car boot. Only 4% of fly-tipping incidents involve the large scale dumping of waste, (tipper lorry loads or larger), however this still equates to approximately 34,000 incidents a year! The cost to the taxpayer is estimated in the region of £58 million, to the private landowner for greater.
What's being done to tackle the problem?
A range of initiatives have been put in place by local authorities and the Environment agency, including working with landowners to identify fly tipping hotspots, installing CCTV cameras at key areas where dumping is taking place, educating people about the environmental implications of not disposing of waste correctly and enforcing anti-fly tipping laws.
However, if you are placing your trust in the authorities to root out this social evil and prosecute the guilty, I wouldn't hold your breath.
As recently as August 2020, it was revealed from a freedom of information request, that only 3.6% of complaints about environmental damage and fly-tipping resulted in penalty or fine. Fly-tipping just isn't a priority.
What's the impact for private land owners?
Fly-tipping is criminal, harmful and incredibly costly. The Environment Agency and local authorities are not responsible for cleaning up illegally dumped waste on private land, that rests solely with the land owner.
Data released by the insurer Zurich, suggests that large scale fly-tipping costs property owners between £200,000 to £300,000 per incident.
These high costs are often due to the presence of hazardous materials including asbestos, chemicals, oils, flammable constituents, or biological waste all of which present a serious environmental hazard requiring disposal by specialist contractors.
How can landlords and property owners combat this threat?
As stated above the vast majority of fly-tipping incidents are small scale opportunist crimes. If you make it difficult for those engaged in such activity to access your site, they will give up and seek easier targets elsewhere.
Secure your perimeter: Examine your perimeter, identify any vulnerabilities. If a vehicle has unimpeded access to your property, then you have a potential issue. Secure your boundary through perimeter fencing, installation of prohibition signage and anti-vehicle measures to prevent access. Concrete blocks are great for this. Sometimes low tech solutions are the best!
Harden your property: Steel screens, locks, lighting and anti-climb measures are all effective in deterring opportunist criminals from targeting your property, including fly-tippers. Make it tough for adversaries to get into your property, guaranteed they will give up and move on.
Regularly monitor your site: Periodically review the condition of your perimeter and any control measures in place to ensure they are still effective. Frequent site inspections can also prevent potential fly-tipping incidents by reporting maintenance issues and ensuring the property doesn't appear abandoned.
Prioritise property up-keep: This is an extension of point 3. One of the most influential contributing theories to CPTED (Crime Prevention Theory Through Environmental Design), was the Broken Windows Theory. Wilson and Kelling's crime theory, argued levels of crime within a specific area were linked to signs of deterioration (Cozens 2016). Simply, if you don't care about your property you can't expect others too.
Utilise Security Technology: We touched upon the benefits of deploying CCTV as part of a layered approach, both as a means of detection and as a deterrent. If the property doesn't have power, (de-energised, or a field), then there are off-grid technologies that would enable the early detection of intruders, (especially a large tipper full of rubbish), providing either evidence for prosecution or time to initiate a response (Police or mobile security personnel). There are some amazing off grid systems powered by solar that are great for securing large perimeters, from CCTV towers (Sunstone / V-Ceptor), to video verification systems (Reconeyez). Off-grid fence mounted sensors are also proving their worth in the early detection of intruders, as well as providing an element of deterrence.
Fly-tipping is a blight on the landscape and one that is becoming increasingly common. The measures described above will discourage adversaries targeting private property, but they won't prevent the dumping of rubbish at the side of roads or in isolated scenic spots.
The harder and more costly we make it to dispose of rubbish, the more we can expect to see incidents of fly-tipping, especially as the cost of living bites and the UK enters recession.