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Mountains of illegally dumped waste are piling up in the countryside – hidden by official statistics that fail to reflect the true extent of... One million incidents of illegal rubbish dumped in countryside

Mountains of illegally dumped waste are piling up in the countryside – hidden by official statistics that fail to reflect the true extent of fly-tipping, say farm leaders.

Incidents of fly-tipping on public land increased by 2% across England in 2019/2020, according to new figures released by Defra. Local councils now deal with almost 1 million fly-tipping incidents every year.

But the figures account only for waste illegally dumped on public land. The vast majority of fly-tipping incidents occur on privately-owned land – and aren’t included in the statistics which farm leaders say fail to reflect the severity of the situation.

“While these figures are alarming, it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land and Business Association. Cases of fly-tipping on privately owned land were significantly higher, he added.

“Part of the problem is that it’s currently too simple to gain a waste carrying licence that enables firms to transport and dispose of waste – and this needs urgent reform with correct checks put in place. A revamped system would act as a deterrent.”

Huge cost

Mr Bridgeman said one CLA member was paying £50,000 each year for illegally dumped rubbish to be cleared from his land. Incidents included discarded tyres, fridges, tents, barbecues and building waste, he said.

“Although the maximum fine for anyone caught fly-tipping is £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment, if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court, this is seldom enforced. Unless tougher action is taken to combat this kind of rural crime, it will continue to increase.”

The NFU says proportionate penalties for offenders and easier ways for the public to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, will help in the fight against the scourge of fly-tipping that continues to be a blight on the countryside.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said he believed the situation would have worsened further still due to the closure of local authority household waste and recycling centres during the coronavirus lockdown.

Fairer approach

Mr Roberts said: “Every day I hear how farmers’ fields are being bombarded with rubbish being illegally dumped. It’s extremely costly and time consuming to remove, is dangerous to human health and harmful to wildlife and livestock.”

Last year’s NFU fly-tipping summit examined ways of taking a fairer approach to fly-tipping on privately owned land, said Mr Roberts. It simply should not be down to the farmer to have to deal with the problem.

“Just because you don’t dump the rubbish yourself does not mean you’re not criminally liable if someone else does. It’s your rubbish so you have a responsibility for it all the way through to the final destination.”