Litter, recycling and fly-tipping is high up on the local environmental agenda. Figures show that fly-tipping is a widespread problem in the UK, with a total of 10,388,561 incidents from 2007/08 to 2017/18.

There’s many questions following this; what is fly-tipping, and who is responsible for clearing it up? How much money is it costing the UK and what exactly is being fly-tipped?

What is fly-tipping?

Fly-tipping is defined as “the illegal deposit of any waste onto land that does not have a license to accept it” by Keep Britain Tidy. There’s no size limit, it can be as small as a black bag or it can be a whole lorry load of goods. In the UK, from 2007/08 to 2017/18 there were a total of 838,483 single black bags fly-tipped and 89,629 significant/multi loads dumped.

Video: fly-tipping explained

Who is responsible for clearing it up?

Local councils are responsible for clearing waste illegally dumped on relevant land and for investigating fly-tipping deposits less than 20m³, or accumulations of several small-scale tipping incidents. Local councils can investigate the larger incidents, which may be organised or hazardous if there is a local agreement in place. Local councils should agree removal and disposal arrangements with the Environment Agency if the dumped waste is more than 5m³ of fibrous asbestos or 75l of potentially hazardous waste in drums or containers. The Environment Agency responds to the most serious incidents reported to the Incident Communications Service whilst any non-serious incidents are forwarded to the appropriate local council the following working day.

How much money is it costing the UK?

It’s no question that this is surely costing the UK a large sum to clear – to be exact £176,370,883 in enforcement costs and a staggering £483,801,884 in clearance costs from 2007/08 to 2016/17. And it doesn’t stop there, a portion of the taxes you pay are used towards clearing up the mess. During 2016-17, there were more than one million incidents in England, costing taxpayers £58m to clear up. From 2017-18 there was a 13% rise in the cost to taxpayers for clearing up fly-tipping.

What is being fly-tipped?

There have been 33,680 cases of asbestos to clear from 2007/08 to 2016/17 in the UK. Asbestos was commonly used as a fireproofing and insulating material and remains in many older residential and non-domestic buildings today. Its use was banned at the end of 1999. One of the more unexpected items have been animal carcasses, with a total of 74,222 being cleared during 2007/08-2016/17. However, the most common items are household waste (4,012,486 cases from 2007/08-2016/17.)