Documents to download

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 Commons Library briefing on litter.

How big is the problem?

The most recent Government Fly-tipping statistics for England, 2021/22 show that:

  • For the 2021/22 year, local authorities in England dealt with 1.09 million fly-tipping incidents, a decrease of 4% from the 1.14 million reported in 2020/21.
  • The percentage of fly-tips involving household waste has fallen from 65% to 61% in 2021/22. Total incidents involving household waste were 671,000 in 2021/22, a decrease of 9% from 740,000 incidents in 2020/21.

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 1990. Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the independent courts. Other available penalties include the issue of a fixed penalty notices and having a vehicle seized. Householders can be fined up to £600 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.

UK Government plans for reform

The UK Government has announced plans to introduce mandatory digital waste tracking from April 2025. A digital waste tracking system would require those who produce, handle, dispose of or make products from waste, to enter information onto it. Among other things it aims to enable regulators to better detect illegal activity and tackle waste crime, including fly-tipping.

The UK Government has also consulted on plans to reform the waste carrier, broker and dealer registration system to introduce requirements for environmental permits in that sector. One of the aims of this is to ensure waste is managed by authorised persons only and in a safe manner, to reduce fly-tipping.

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.

Documents to download

Related posts