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What is fly tipping?

Fly-tipping is the illegal disposal of household, industrial, commercial or other ‘controlled’ waste. The waste can be liquid or solid; controlled waste includes garden refuse and larger domestic items such as fridges and mattresses.

Fly-tipping is not the same as littering. Littering is commonly assumed to include materials, often associated with smoking, eating and drinking. More information on litter can be found in the Library Briefing Paper on Litter.

How big is the problem?

The most recent Government Fly-tipping statistics for England, 2019/20 show that:

  • For the 2019/20 year, local authorities in England dealt with just under 1 million (976,000) fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 2% from the 957,000 reported in 2018/19.
  • Just under two thirds (65%) of fly-tips involved household waste. Total incidents involving household waste were 632,000 in 2019/20, an increase of 7% from 588,000 in 2018/19.

Responsibility for fly tipping and powers to require clearance

  • Local authorities are responsible for investigating, clearing and taking appropriate enforcement action in relation to small scale fly-tipping on public land.
  • In England the Environment Agency is responsible for dealing with larger-scale fly-tipping (more than a lorry load), hazardous waste and fly-tipping by organised gangs.
  • On private land, it is normally the responsibility of the landowner to remove the waste.

Local authorities and the Environment Agency have legal powers to require landowners to clear fly-tipped waste from their land. They also have powers to enter the land and clear it and may seek reimbursement for costs related to it. 

Penalties for fly-tipping

There is currently no minimum fine set out in law for unlawfully depositing waste under Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act. Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the independent courts. There are also a number of other possible penalties, including fixed penalty notices and having a vehicle seized. Householders can be fined up to £400 if they pass their waste to an unlicensed waste carrier which is subsequently fly-tipped.

Concern about costs to private landowners

Concern has been raised about the costs involved to private landowners of clearing fly tipped waste from their land and several campaigns have been launched calling for change in this area.

Government plans for reform

The Government’s December 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy committed to publishing a web-based fly-tipping toolkit to help tackle the issue. There are also provisions in the Environment Bill 2020-21 to enable the electronic tracking of waste.

Coronavirus

Some local councils had reported increased incidents of fly-tipping following reductions in refuse services due to Coronavirus-related restrictions. During the lockdowns the Government had asked local authorities to maintain action on fly-tipping as a “high” priority.

Scope of this paper

Waste is a devolved issue. While this briefing paper focuses on England, it does provide links to further information in the devolved nations. Information on other UK countries can also be provided to Members and their staff on a request basis.


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