Councils are considering a beefed-up campaign to address the growing problem of “organised flytipping”.
Proposals discussed by the Local Government Association’s environment, economy, housing and transport board on Tuesday would see councils lobbying for increased penalties for flytippers as part of a drive to tackle the proliferation of criminal activity in this area.
The meeting heard that “organised flytipping”, where criminals advertise waste removal services to residents and businesses but simply dump the waste on illegal sites, was a growing problem.
Board chair Martin Tett (Con) said action was needed to address the “massive growth” in the organised criminal element of flytipping seen particularly in the last five years.
“There now seems to be, on an almost industrial scale, people who have organised themselves to hoover up waste over a large area, often in big cities, and then dump it in large quantities in the countryside,” he said.
Among the options under review are tougher penalties to send a deterrent message to potential offenders and to allow councils to cover the costs of their anti-flytipping activity.
Residents could also be made aware, potentially through the use of notices stuck to household bins, of the requirement to dispose of waste responsibly. “The vast majority of residents have no idea of their legal obligations,” said Cllr Tett.
Since the start of this year, local authorities have had the right to issue fixed penalty notices to householders who have failed in their duty of care to dispose of household waste.
However, concerns remain around the prosecution process, and in particular the extent to which councils can recoup their costs after a successful prosecution. One waste partnership, in Buckinghamshire, reported that it had been left £35,000 out of pocket after successfully bringing flytippers to court, having recovered less than three fifths of its costs.
This acted as a disincentive to prosecution, board members heard. The discussion will feed into the development of LGA policy on the issue.
Calls from the local government sector to contribute to the disposal costs of frequently flytipped items such mattresses through extended producer responsibility schemes have also so far fallen on deaf ears.
An independent review last year into serious and organised waste crime found that the effectiveness of local authorities in tackling flytipping was hampered by limited funds and competing priorities, leading to variation in the effectiveness of their responses.
To avoid unwittingly contributing to criminal activity, councils could improve procurement through tougher audit requirements on the companies they use for waste disposal, it said.
According to the most recent data, councils carried out 494,000 enforcement actions against flytipping in 2017-18, up 4% on the previous year.