Fly-tipping: Government plans to tackle ‘new narcotics’ of waste crime

The government has announced plans to tackle what the head of the Environment Agency has called the “new narcotics” of fly-tipping and waste crime.

The proposals would see checks on who is able to handle and dispose of waste, as well as a digital tracking system.

Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of rubbish, like mattresses and bags of waste, in parks, or on pavements.

There were 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents in England in 2020-21, a rise of 16% on the previous 12 months.

The cost, which includes clear-up and lost taxes, has been estimated to be £1bn a year.

The government says its reforms will address flaws in part of England’s waste disposal system, the Environment Agency’s Carrier, Broker and Dealer registration scheme (CBD).

The consultation on reforms covers England only, but the mandatory digital waste tracking will be UK-wide.

‘I registered my dead dog’

If you want someone to come to your house and pick up an old sofa or rubbish, they are supposed to be registered on the CBD database, and you should be able to go online to check they are legal.

The problem with the CBD system is that there appear to be almost no checks made on who can register, as Mike Brown, who runs an environmental consultancy company, discovered. Back in 2017 he successfully registered his dead dog to highlight the many flaws in the system.

“Oscar, our beloved highland terrier, died in 2006. Frankly we were very surprised at just how easy it was to register him as a waste carrier in just 15 minutes for £154,” he explained.

To expose flaw in the system, Mike Brown registered his dead dog Oscar as a waste collectorIMAGE SOURCE,MIKE BROWN
Image caption,

To expose flaw in the system, Mike Brown registered his dead dog Oscar as a waste collector

“The reason the system is broken is that, over the last decade, the funding for the waste regulator has reduced at exactly the time that these inadequate rules are being tested by criminals, whose proceeds from crime have increased.”

The system hasn’t changed since then. If you’ve got the money to spare, you can register yourself or your pets to take away rubbish. A Guardian columnist even registered his goldfish.

In practice, many people don’t even get as far as the website and use unregistered operators. Some research suggests that as many of two-thirds of those advertising waste disposal services are unregistered.

It’s helped created what Environment Agency head Sir James Bevan has called the “new narcotics” of waste crime.

Disposing of waste legally costs money, whether in landfill tax or the fees paid for it to be processed or recycled. So fly-tipping criminals make money by undercutting the prices of legal operators, and then simply dumping the load without paying any of the fees.

“Organised crime has emerged in this sector because it is in essence low-risk and high-reward,” Sam Corp, head of regulation at the Environmental Services Association said.

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