I spent this weekend with friends on their farm in Wiltshire, planting trees and drinking proper west country scrumpy (resulting in quite a hangover on Sunday!). However, this is not the subject of my post, perhaps clear from the title. Fly tipping is at the forefront of my mind because of our journey to the farm. When driving along one of the side roads, a few miles away from the farm, we were greeted with piles of rubbish lining both sides of the lane. Old carpets, black bin bags full of plastic bottles, strewn all over the place, and all sorts of other rubbish littered the otherwise unspoilt countryside. The shocking thing however, is that this kind of experience is not unusual.
Last year there were over 900,000 reported incidents of illegally dumped waste across England, a rise of 5% on 2015, and according to the NFU 2/3 of farms are affected. We’ve all seen it – piles of old tyres, washing machines, electrical goods, garden waste – but most of us don’t have to bear any direct costs. Not so for landowners. It remains incredibly difficult to trace fly tippers, and it is the landowner who bears the brunt of the problem, facing clean up fees that often reach into the thousands, and when all added together, it reaches the tens of millions.
Flytipping not only looks awful but it can harm livestock, pollute watercourses, contaminate land and negatively impact on human health. Asbestos, syringes and toxic waste can all be found within the abominable soup of dumped items.
Surely, it isn’t fair for the landowner to face all of the costs. Councils should step in to help but crucially it should be up to all of us to take responsibility and make it absolutely socially unacceptable to drop rubbish. We need to be on the lookout for flytippers and when we see it, report it, both to the local council and the Environment Agency. We need to get on top of this problem and the only way of achieving it is by nudging social change. On a broad scale it is working with cigarettes and on a local scale (although by far from everywhere) with dog poo. We now need to work together to make dropping litter, of any size, a socially unacceptable action.