Fly-tipping has soared during lockdown. What does this mean for land and commercial property owners?

 With people confined to their homes, reports state that fly-tipping across the UK has increased during Coronavirus lockdown by some 300%. In some parts of the country, rubbish collections have been reduced, many local authority tips and recycling closed, and charity shops forced to close by the Government (and not able to take unwanted goods), all types of waste is being fly-tipped.

The most common rubbish being fly-tipped is household waste as well as appliances such fridges and washing machines, waste from building work, vehicle parts and tyres. Hazardous wastes such as oil, asbestos and chemicals are also being illegally dumped.

What is fly-tipping?

Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of waste and is a crime. The Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Department for the Environment, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) describe fly-tipping as ‘the illegal dumping of liquid or solid waste on land or in water’.

In recent years fly-tipping is causing private landowners, farmers and commercial landlords a real problem.

The land most commonly affected by fly-tipping is often not far from council tips – being road sides and private land. With many commercial buildings temporarily unoccupied being temporarily closed due to the pandemic, rubbish is being dumped on industrial estates, as well as agricultural land and even car parks.

 If waste has been fly-tipped on your land, does this become your problem?

On private land it is the responsibility of the land owner to remove the waste and dispose of it legally. Building waste is usually more costly to remove because of the unknown contents and potential to contain hazardous materials such as flammable materials, asbestos and chemicals. Removal costs can be high because of the potential health and safety risks and assessments that have to be carried out.

1. If you do find fly tipped waste on your land, report it immediately to your local authority.

2. Be careful of contaminated waste and how you remove it. If you don’t do this correctly, you may be at risk from damaging the environmental with leakage of hazardous waste

3. Also don’t just move the waste onto the roadside, no matter how annoyed you may be, as this is considered fly-tipping itself, and you don’t want to be held accountable for someone else’s crime!

Fly tipping removal costs

Although fly tipping is an offence, prosecutions can be difficult and prove to be an impossible task.

Three points in particular to note:

1. Waste disposal is usually charged by weight and waste that has been drenched in rain water increases in weight and therefore increases the cost of removal.
The costs of the removal of the offending waste can vary due to the unknown contents and potential to contain hazardous materials such as asbestos, flammable materials and chemicals. Contamination of land often adds to the overall clean up costs – and if this is not undertaken sooner rather than later can worsen.

2. It may sound unfair but local authorities have legal powers to require landowners to clear fly-tipped waste. This is contained within Sections 59, 79 and 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 108 of the Environment Act 1995 and Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Local authorities also have powers to enter the land and clear it – and then seek reimbursement for their costs of doing so, from the landowner.

As well as the removal costs of the offending waste, if left for a period of time, there can be an increases risk of fire and even risk of explosion from unknown materials within the waste.

What can business owners and landowners do to prevent their site becoming a dumping ground?

Vacant sites are far more exposed than occupied sites – hence the rise during this period of unforeseen business closure. Businesses with large open areas and good vehicle access are particularly exposed. You should:

1. Ensure security measures such as CCTV and intruder alarms remain a deterrent to fly-tippers
2. Prevent vehicle access
3. Ensure that the access points to your land are secured using heavy duty padlocks to gates
4. If premises are vacant, concrete blocks can be placed across entrances. These act as good visible deterrent– but this is not always practically possible
5. Set up a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ scheme with businesses or residential neighbours
6. Inspect land and premises as regularly as possible during this period, in line with Government journey advice

More information about tackling fly tipping can be found at www.tacklingflytipping.com and The Environmental Agency.

Land Insurance covering the costs of fly-tipping and environmental liability

It’s important that land owners check what insurance cover they have in place to ensure it is sufficient should there be the need to remove a large amount of waste, potentially hazardous.

Land Insurance is available to anyone who has responsibility as the ‘land owner’, and offers peace of mind that should something go wrong and a member of the public claims to have been hurt or made ill, or otherwise suffered a loss as a result of being on your property, you have some protection in place against potential costs.

To ensure you are best protected against environmental risks and liabilities from waste damage and fly tipping please contact a Real Insurance specialist on 0330 058 0260.