Fly-tipping is more than just a nuisance. It is a serious crime, with serious impact on our communities and should be taken seriously.
We have all been appalled by the recent reports of fly tipping in our countryside. It seems to have become a common everyday occurrence now. I certainly have had more reports than ever of fly tipping, some were of such large scale that you almost wonder how the perpetrators managed to get away with it. A mattress dropped on the kerb or a fridge on a grass verge here and there is a real annoyance. The local Council gets called. They clear it. Done. But, fly tipping is as a big business for some and well organised criminality that relies on the exploitation of communities for significant financial gain and has very little regard for the environmental consequences.
An independent report published three years ago estimated the cost to the economy of organised waste crime at between £600m and £1bn.
People unfortunately don't always appreciate how these estimates of “costs to the economy” affect them in their daily lives as they can seem rather abstract. But if the rubbish is dumped on public land, it will be down to the local council to deal with it and clear it up. And therefore, it is us, tax payers footing the bill. And for a landowner - large or small who has waste dumped on their land, the impact is very real. You may be a farmer with many acres, a business with a large operation, or simply a private individual who has the misfortune to find someone else’s waste on your property. Tracking down the culprits can be incredibly difficult and if on private land, the costs of the clean up are down to you!
What transpire is that this is often the work of serious organised criminals. It is not uncommon for them to have a link to at least one, apparently legitimate, business. The scale of the business can be huge and this criminal industry can generate millions of tonnes of waste each year.
So who is responsible for tackling the problem of fly tipping? Well this is part of the challenge as we have a patchwork of responsibilities currently in the UK. The police have a role in some larger cases, but it is often limited. Local councils are generally the primary authority but there is also a role for HMRC and of course the Environment Agency.
As well a small public bodies, there are thousands of private individuals and landowners who are impacted by the cost and disruption caused by this crime. And very often, intimidation and threats will be used, making people feel vulnerable.
In order to tackle this issue, we need to be more organised than the criminals. Very often, waste crime on large scale are conducted by organised criminals who are also involved in other serious organised crime, including fraud and slavery.
That is why I am fully supportive of the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) created in January 2020 by our Government. Its aim is to tackle serious and organised waste crime all over the Country. It includes law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency. We have seen great successes from collaboration through GAIN (the Government Agency Intelligence Network) in tackling organised criminals, and we need to emulate that success in dealing with waste crime. We need to take seriously what has, for far too long, been considered little more than a nuisance.
Here in Derbyshire, there are some good examples of local council enforcement officers using their powers and working closely with the police and the Environment Agency to secure significant prosecutions. But it is not enough and there is no reasons why this should not be repeated and scaled up. A strategic approach that ensures intelligence is shared, evidence gathered, prosecutions sought, and even more importantly, suitable penalties imposed, can make a real difference to our communities and our environment. I think there is is a call for a specific task force to take this on locally.
If elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire in May, I will make sure that all of the agencies involved locally come together with the clear aim of disrupting organised crime, prosecuting those responsible, and ultimately reducing fly-tipping across Derbyshire.