Is litter and fly tipping really that bad?
Devon authorities spend about £7m annually keeping the County clean, and without these services, the cleanliness of our local environments including streets, highways and countryside would deteriorate rapidly. Litter and fly tipping are avoidable and unnecessary, so the Clean Devon Partnership, working with business and residents, will work together to tackle this anti-social habit. Beyond the £1bn spent on clearing litter and fly tipping in the UK annually, it also damages communities, the environment and impacts on people’s well-being. Because litter and fly tipping is uncontrolled, it can enter watercourses, block drains (leading to flooding) and harm wildlife and livestock. Over 80% of ocean plastic originates from land. Litter and fly tipping really is that bad.
What is the difference between litter and fly tipping?
Litter tends to refer to small quantities of discarded on-the-go items such as smoking related or food & drink packaging, but it also includes dog fouling. Fly tipping is generally any accumulation of waste greater than a bin bag in size and can include unauthorised waste placed next to bins, or larger items such as old furniture, building waste or hazardous items. Where waste is not contained or in the right place it can contribute significantly to the problem of litter and fly tipping.
Is clearance of litter and fly tipping covered in Council Tax?
It depends where it is. Landowners have a legal duty to keep land clear of rubbish, so the costs of clearance and disposal fall directly on them. Understandably for private landowners such as farmers, National Parks or environmental charities, clean-up costs can be devastating and in these cases not covered by Council Tax.
Local councils are responsible for the removal of fly-tipping from public property, e.g. roads, pavements, lay-bys, parks. Whilst councils routinely empty bins, littering and fly tipping creates significant additional and unnecessary costs which divert money from other core services.
Who drops litter?
Littering is leaving anything, anywhere, without permission from the land owner. This would include littering caused by waste which has not been contained properly such as our recycling containers, skips or vehicles and for which we are still responsible for. Whilst deliberate littering accounts for some of the problem, I in 4 people admit to ‘careful littering’, such as leaving take-away packaging on a wall, or hanging a bag of dog waste on a fence, to ‘pick up later’. Well-intended acts, such as leaving donations outside a closed charity shop is also littering and can contribute to wider street litter through scavengers. Littering is therefore not just a deliberate act, or due to certain people, and can simply be an unintended consequence. The good news is with small changes we can all significantly reduce the amount of litter by asking ourselves the question ‘have I been given permission to leave this here?’, if not, take it to the nearest bin or home.
Fly tipping is usually a deliberate act where the owner of that waste is attempting to avoid disposal costs or save time and again this can be reduced significantly by only giving your waste to people who are authorised to take it.
What are my responsibilities?
The basic rules are the same for everyone. We all have a legal duty (known as Duty of Care) to (1) manage our waste to keep it secure (avoiding litter) and (2) only pass it to authorised people or approved waste collectors. Whilst waste is in your possession, or on your property, you are responsible for it. This would include material awaiting collection such as rubbish/recycling containers or skips on your property. It also includes waste from others you are responsible for, such as children or animals (i.e. dog fouling).
What is an approved waste collector?
Local authorities are approved waste collectors and as such collect your household waste and provide bulky waste collection services. There are also many private sector companies and charities who are also authorised to collect, transport and disposal of waste. Any waste removed from your property including home improvement works, must only be passed to an approved waste collector (see our Advice page). Always ask for their licence number and check this through the Environment Agency register before work starts.
What is the Buy With Confidence scheme?
Buy With Confidence is the business approval scheme operated by Trading Standards. Membership involves Trading Standards vetting and monitoring, to assure the public that they are trustworthy, honest and reliable traders. By joining Buy With Confidence, waste hauliers can show the public that as well as being registered to carry waste, they are legitimate traders that comply with the other legislation relevant to their business and provide excellent customer service. Using a Buy With Confidence member to take your waste away to an official waste processing facility can help to remove the scourge of fly tipping from our communities.
To find a Buy With Confidence business near to you, go to www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk
What do I do if there is no bin?
In law there is no excuse for littering or fly tipping, it really is that straight forward. If there is no bin, take it to the nearest or home.
What about litter on bin collection days?
Householders have a role to play to keep their waste contained before collection such as stacking containers, but also taking account of weather conditions. In fact anyone creating or dealing with waste is responsible for it and this includes local councils and contractors. The Clean Devon Partnership will therefore identify and target all sources of litter because we all play a part in achieving our goal. Clean Devon is not about pointing fingers or apportioning blame to others which achieves little, but collaborative and positive action backed-up by coordinated enforcement.
What can I do to help?
With safety in mind, a ‘2-minute litter pick’ is a great way to get involved and improve the local area. This could just be picking up a few bits of rubbish every day on your way to work, or a more organised litter pick. The Clean Devon Partnership aims to highlight the fantastic community initiatives already taking place and offer consistent support throughout the County. If every person in Devon picked up 1 piece of rubbish every day, there would be 790,000 fewer bits of litter, every day. The power of one in large numbers should not be understated.
Does anyone get caught littering?
Yes, local authorities and enforcement agencies are increasingly issuing fixed penalties and fines for littering and fly-tipping but it is difficult to be in the right place at the right time. Whilst all forms of littering are against the law and liable for criminal or civil enforcement action, the principal driver for the issue of fines or legal action is to deter others from similar activity and recover costs. The Clean Devon Partnership recognises that enforcement action is limited so will work with Local Authority Environmental Protection Teams to develop awareness and educational programmes, sophisticated prevention, detection and deterrent mechanisms to create zero tolerance for littering within communities and deter others from this damaging activity.
What do I do if I see someone littering or fly tipping?
If you witness littering (including from vehicles) or fly tipping, do not put yourself in heightened risk. If you can see the incident taking place, the following information will help enforcement action;
- Vehicle details (registration, colour, make and model)
- Who – description of individual(s) (include height, build, distinguishing features / clothing)
- What – description of items deposited (include type, number of items)
- When – Date and time
- Where – description of incident location
See our Report it page for contact details.
What do I do if I find needles or other risk items?
In the first instance, do not touch the items or place them in a bin due to the risk to yourself and others. Report needles and other risk items to the local authority who will arrange clearance either directly or through the landowner.
Will this problem ever be solved?
The Clean Devon Partnership working with business and residents has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of litter and fly tipping to support the ambitions of national litter strategies. Work is already underway to make it harder for rogue traders to operate and so with residents help, checking that their waste is being taken by legitimate companies (see our Advice page) this weakness is being addressed. Littering is not a universal problem in all countries, so our challenge is to work with residents to take pride in our local area through effective information and enforcement. Over time, we aim for littering to become socially unacceptable.
Why don’t you make all the legal tips free and pay for the disposal with the money you spend on fly tipping clean ups and investigations
It is important to recognise that managing waste costs money, including every tonne delivered to a Recycling Centre for disposal. Because these household facilities are funded through council tax, costs of the service need to be managed and so all waste which is legally required to be accepted for ‘free’ is. Certain types of waste, such as rubble from home improvement works, is not classed as household waste, so a charge is applied. If all waste, from all sources, was accepted at Recycling Centres without charge however, costs to the taxpayer would increase exponentially and residents would rightly question why they were funding home improvement projects and commercial and industrial waste disposal. Interestingly, most household fly tipping incidents contain waste which would not have incurred a charge, so the reasons for fly tipping are not simply based on avoided cost. The bottom line is that it is never OK to fly tip. The Clean Devon Partnership is therefore working together to target the small number of individuals who are causing harm to communities and the environment, supporting the majority of residents who recognise and strive to maintain the natural beauty of Devon.
Can I be fined or prosecuted for littering or fly-tipping?
Fly-tipping is a serious crime and local authorities always look to catch and prosecute those committing it. It is punishable by up to two years imprisonment and up to a £50,000 fine upon conviction.
Handing your waste over to an unlicensed waste carrier is also a crime, you are legally responsible for the waste you are getting rid of. By giving your waste to someone else, who then goes on to dump it as a fly-tip, you could be held responsible and face prosecution and a fine of up to £5000 for fly-tipping if you haven’t taken reasonable measures to check that the company or person has a licence to carry waste.
Environmental Enforcement Officers who see people dumping waste or leaving items they no longer want outside their homes or in other public places for others to pick up can issue fixed penalty notices of up to £400.