This morning I took the train to work. As it pulled away from the station I observed a ragged assortment of clothing clinging to the muddy bank, along with a baby bath and some soggy cardboard. As the train sped along I caught more glimpses of misplaced property. Sundry items included a cycling helmet, a chair, one shoe, a distressed lilo and enough clothing to open a shop. Who do these rags belong to? Why hurl such spoils over a fence to be sighted by daily commuters?
At the weekend I witnessed first hand NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard) or rather NITBOMC (Not In The Back Of My Car). I was driving behind a car on a country road in The Chilterns. The passenger window rolled down and a hand emerged clutching a fast food bag and tossed it into ancient beech woodland. The wind snatched a wrapper and blew it against my windscreen. A second later my car wheels crushed a soft drink container and a burger box. “The rats will be delighted”, I thought furiously, “if the pigeons don’t get there first”.
Not only is fly-tipping illegal it is a health hazard. A discarded sweater can provide nesting material for rats. An old tyre furbished with some shredded cardboard may make a cosy home for a family of mice.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimates that clearing fly-tipped rubbish from the streets costs local councils £4 million a month. According to DEFRA, household waste (including leftover DIY material and abandoned electrical goods such as fridges) account for half of all fly-tipped rubbish in England. So, you may have bunged a chap £10 to take your fridge away but you’ll get stung later in your taxes when the local council has had to hire a crane to claw it back up the side of a hill.
If you spot large amounts of rubbish, upwards of 20 cubic metres or 18 tonnes, call the Environment Agency’s free 24-hour hotline, 0800 807060. For smaller amounts you need to call your local council. The Environment Agency advises to have to hand information on the location of the dumping, what the rubbish might be, where it might have come from and if it’s a regular occurrence. Or you can inform the police, especially if you are concerned that a vehicle is being used for fly-tipping.
You can also visit the Fix My Street website and report online a fly tipping problem and they will pass on the complaint to your local council.
Local councils now have more powers to penalise illegal fly tipping and duty of care offences under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. Fixed penalty notices can be issued if people do not comply with the duty of care obligations. They could also be convicted and face up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to £50,000, or both. Further information on fly-tipping is provided in ENCAMS, Fly Tipping and the Law- A Guide for the Public.
A message to all the NIMBY’s guilty of fly-tipping. Fly-tipping is not only lazy but illegal, and carries the risk of a hefty fine. Fly-tipping contributes to rodent infestations so if you see it report it.