Illegal waste disposal in the UK: nation’s dirtiest areas revealed

By Dan Barraclough

What is fly-tipping?

Fly-tipping is defined as ‘illegal waste disposal’, and it’s a big problem around the UK. In 2017/18, local authorities in England dealt with just under one million fly-tipping incidents.

The type of illegal waste can vary greatly, from household to commercial, but the overall effect is the same: an unsightly mess that’s dangerous to animals and humans, and costly to local councils. In fact, fly-tipping costs councils in England more than £12.2 million annually.

In this report, we lift the (bin) lid on the problem to find out which parts of the UK are the worst offenders, and to uncover which areas have become dirtier or greener since our investigation last year.

To calculate these figures, we compared the population of areas with the number of fly-tipping incidents up and down the UK, and the results are surprising.

what is fly tipping

Which are the worst areas for fly-tipping?

We’ll cut to the chase – the capital needs a cleanup. Londoners are the worst offenders when it comes to fly-tipping, with seven London boroughs featuring in the top 10 worst areas for the 2017/18 year. 

One of the most surprising stats can be found in Kensington and Chelsea. It’s the richest area of the UK – with an average house price of £2,178,563 – but also the sixth worst fly-tipper with 63 incidents per 1,000 people. That brings a new meaning to the term filthy rich…

The filthiest five

While the City of London reduced its fly-tipping offences by 12%, it is still the nation’s worst offender with 210 offences per 1,000 people. Hammersmith and Fulham has sadly risen through the ranks from the fifth to the second worst, seeing an increase of 23%, equating to 100 offences per 1,000 people.

In our previous research we revealed the top five worst areas in England were all London boroughs. However, the capital has slightly cleaned up its act since then, making way for two new faces in the top five.

Despite reducing its fly-tipping offences by 20%, Great Yarmouth has gone from seventh to fifth worst in England, while Northampton has flown up to fourth from the seventh worst offender, with fly-tipping offences creeping up by 1%. .

Outside of London

Should the capital get all the punishment? We pulled the top 10 worst areas outside of London to give you a wider view of the tipping epidemic. 

Since 2017, Plymouth has seen increased offences by a staggering 1838%, going from two to 53 offences per 1,000 people in just a year, making it the fourth worst offender outside of London. 

Other areas that have fly-tipped their way into the non-London top 10 include South Tyneside, and Redcar and Cleveland, having increased their fly-tipping by 18% and 103% respectively. However, it’s the same old dirty story for Pendle, Gateshead, Peterborough, and Liverpool, remaining some of the worst offenders outside of the capital city.

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Which areas fly-tip the least?

Just like last year’s statistics, there’s a huge disparity between the best and worst offenders. 

Not only has Oadby and Wigston in the East Midlands retained the cleanest title, but it’s become even greener with 0.14 fly-tipping incidents per 1,000 – 54% less than last year. To put that into perspective, the City of London commits 1,500 times more offences per 1000 people than Oadby and Wigston.

Enfield in London is the feel-good story of this year’s fly-tipping report, reducing its offences by 95% – the most of any area. Other areas that performed particularly well this year were Lewes, Mid Sussex, Erewash, and Richmondshire.

What penalties can illegal waste disposal incur?

Illegal waste disposal (ie. fly-tipping) became a criminal offence in 2005, and punishments can be severe. Those found guilty can face a fine of up to £50,000 and up to five years imprisonment. On top of this, they may also have to pay legal costs and compensation.

In past cases, this has seen businesses and individuals pay upwards of £90,000. It’s more important than ever that businesses keep up to speed on UK waste regulations and how to stick to them.

For smaller incidents of fly-tipping that are considered non-hazardous, the result is more likely to be a fine of £150 to £400.

do you need a waste transfer license

How are businesses contributing to the problem?

While most fly-tipping involves domestic waste – such as electrical items and furniture – illegally dumped business waste is also a real issue. Common business waste includes:

  • Construction waste: rubble, plasterboard, kitchen and bathroom suites, paint, asbestos and chemicals
  • Trade waste: paperwork and general rubbish

As a business owner, you have social and legal responsibilities to ensure that your commercial waste is disposed of properly.

How should businesses dispose of waste?

If you own a business, then you have a ‘duty of care’ when it comes to waste disposal. This means it’s up to you to make sure your waste is dealt with legally.

You must keep written information about your waste disposal for a minimum of two years. Furthermore, this information should all be readily available for inspection by the council or Environment Agency if the time comes.

If your commercial waste can’t get collected up by your local council, we recommend contacting a registered waste carrier. We’ve rounded up our pick of the top five waste carriers in the UK. 

Of course, one way to make your waste disposal issues easier is to produce less rubbish! The planet, and your bottom line, will thank you for it. Keen to become more green? Read all our recommendations for how to make your business greener in 2019.

Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a writer for Expert Market, specialising in a range of cool topics. He loves web design and all things UX, but also the hardware stuff like postage metres and photocopiers.

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