The New Forest : stopping flytippers
PUBLISHED: 15:21 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013
Jim Keoghan looks into the facts and figures and asks what can be done to save our countryside from fly-tippers and those who feel the need to drop litter.
You have no idea the kind of awful rubbish that we collect. It includes urine in bottles, dirty nappies, needles and so on, as well as cans. The main culprits are people who chuck their litter out of a vehicle rather than taking it home to deal with. Theres a sign saying Welcome to Ringwood as you enter the town, but the amount of rubbish is far from welcoming. It really is unacceptable.
Terry Aldridge, a volunteer litter-picker in the New Forest, is one of an increasing number of people fed-up with the amount of fly-tipping taking place in the National Park. A recent Safer Neighbourhood survey of locals found that 39 per cent of those questioned thought fly-tipping a significant problem affecting the quality of life for residents.
As Terry has found, fly-tipping is often committed on a small scale: a crisp packet here, a drinks can there. This kind of casual littering is often thoughtless rather than malicious but nevertheless remains a significant problem. But there are other varieties of fly-tipping which seem to have a greater sense of pre-meditation about them. These include people driving out to the countryside to deliberately dump waste, (such as householders abandoning white goods) and businesses, (such as building firms) depositing their waste in rural spots to avoid disposal charges.
Sue Westwood, Clerk to the New Forest Verderers, feels that this waste is having a detrimental impact on the area.
Fly tipping is an absolute menace. Apart from the obvious visual impact on a beautiful area and one of the countrys few National Parks, very often the materials dumped are extremely hazardous to animals (be they wild or the commoners stock) as well as children and the general public. The sort of things I have come across have been fridges and washing machines, plumbing including pipes and tanks, rubble, asbestos, various metal objects, some of which can be extremely sharp, shopping trolleys, plastic-containers and sheeting, and glass. We also get vegetation, sometimes including yew or other poisonous plants as well as the usual grass cuttings which kill ponies if eaten once they have heated up. In the autumn large piles of apples are often thrown out for the animals which can cause colic in ponies and donkeys, occasionally resulting in a very painful death. I have come across animals that are eating plastic and one pony had what looked like a piece of downpipe round its leg. This is not particularly unusual.
Counting the cost
There is also the cost to consider. The National Trust and the Forestry Commission, who are both significant landowners in the New Forest, claim that clearing up fly-tipped waste costs each of them thousands of pounds each year. National Trust bosses say a recent increase in fly-tipping across the National Park is now costing them 50 a day, or 18,000 a year to clean up.
For many rural campaign groups one of the key contributing factors towards the problem of fly-tipping has been the continued increase in the landfill tax. Under EU legislation, by 2020 the UK will have to reduce the amount of waste diverted to landfill to 35 per cent of levels deposited in 1995. The figure currently stands at 75 per cent. To tackle this problem the landfill tax, which was introduced in 1995, has risen sharply in recent years. At the moment it stands at 40 per tonne for active wastes and 2.50 per tonne for inactive or inert wastes. These figures are predicted to rise for the foreseeable future.
The tax, which is meant to force businesses to reconsider how they use and dispose of materials, is having a negative side effect. Local authorities across the country, including here in Hampshire, have reported a rise in fly-tipping of the type of waste that would once have gone into landfill, as some businesses attempt to avoid paying the higher charges.
Getting the message
But whats surprising (and what also illustrates how tricky an issue this is) is that even waste exempt from the tax, such as that which Terry Aldridge has commonly come across, is increasing too. According to Defra, each year more than half of fly-tipping incidents involve items of household waste, which if people were to dispose of responsibly (i.e. find the nearest bin or take them home and bin it themselves) would not cost them a penny. This means that even where rising cost is not an issue people still continue to dump their waste illegally.
So why does it persist? Both the Environment Agency (EA) and the Local Government Association (LGA) who between them are responsible for disposing of waste on public land (the EA clears large amounts of waste and that of a hazardous nature and LGA members deal with low-level fly-tipping) agree that powers granted under recently introduced legislation are sufficient. Instead the problem is one of implementation.
Appeal for witnesses
To take the New Forest as an example, and thats fairly representative of many other rural areas, although we have the powers to deal with fly-tipping and we regularly monitor places that are known hotspots, in an area the size of New Forest it is extremely time consuming as often there are very few witnesses or little evidence to pursue offenders. We do work with other agencies and neighbouring authorities to reduce the amount of fly tipping in the district but its still a tricky thing to police, says Colin Read, Head of Environment Services at New Forest District Council.
And thats the main problem; if the chances of being caught are so slim then its unsurprising that fly-tipping persists. Its thought that if both the public and landowners were more forthcoming then there might be a chance of additional witnesses and a greater amount of information, which could assist in a higher number of successful investigations. But the problem in trying to encourage greater reporting is that many members of the public simply dont want to get involved in an investigation or see fly-tipping as something for somebody else to deal with.
Many landowners are also loathed to report any incidents as they feel there is little point in doing so because the possibility of securing a conviction is so low. This lack of faith in the existing system is compounded by current legislation which maintains that any waste dumped illegally on private land is the responsibility of the landowner and not the local authority or the EA. Its little surprise that landowners feel neglected and disenchanted.
Plan of action
So what can be done? The key for us is the public, says local Environment Agency spokesman Joe Giacomelli. Were already making inroads but what we need is for more and more people to become aware of the problem and come to see it for what it is, which is environmental vandalism. That wont only stop people littering it will also increase our chances, and that of local authorities, of successfully prosecuting more fly-tippers. The more people that come forward, the better the evidence we are able to collect.
So really, the New Forest needs you! Few of us would throw litter in our own gardens or allow somebody else to do it to us. Yet when it comes to the countryside this is exactly what happens. By turning a blind-eye or failing to dispose of waste correctly we risk spoiling one of the countys best assets.
Have your say
Let us know what you think on this subject on our forums at hampshire.greatbritishlife.co.uk
Find out more
Address: Hampshire & Isle of Wight Area Office, Colvedene Court, Colden Common, SO21 1WP
Tel. 08708 506506
Tel. 01962 843655
New Forest Verderers
Tel. 023 8028 2052
New Forest District Council
Tel. 023 8028 5000
Did you know?
From 2008 to 2009
1.16 million fly-tipping incidents were dealt with by local authorities in England, a nine per cent decrease from the year before.
63 per cent of fly-tips involved household waste.
There has been a four per cent increase in enforcement actions by local authorities.
Every day almost 2,500 small loads of rubbish were illegally dumped.
Rubbish was illegally dumped somewhere in England every
Whats happening elsewhere?
According to Defra, statistics for the period 2008-2009 reveal that in the south east as a whole there has been a 24 per cent decline in fly-tipping. Within Hampshire, the picture is more mixed. Several local authorities, such as east Hampshire, Fareham and Basingstoke have seen an increase in the incidences of fly-tipping whereas others, including Eastleigh, Portsmouth and Gosport, have seen a decrease over the same period. But perhaps they should count their blessings that they arent Southampton, who despite enjoying a fall in fly-tipping still has to deal with more instances of it than all of the remaining local authorities in the county put together.
Tackling the problem
In east Hampshire, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has recently obtained funding from the South Downs Sustainable Development Fund for a one-year pilot scheme starting in April. t aims to build awareness and discover the true scale of fly-tipping and the best ways for people to report it. Working jointly with the Environment Agency, East Hampshire District Council, National Farmers Union and Country Land & Business Association, it is part of CPREs national Stop the Drop campaign.