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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 14:10 GMT
The nightmare of fly-tipping
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News

With new figures showing rubbish is illegally dumped somewhere in the UK every 35 seconds, the spotlight is on a crime that rarely grabs the headlines.


A plague of black bin bags, abandoned fridges, garden waste, building rubble, and dangerous asbestos are clogging Britain's streets.

Fly-tippers are happy to dump anything, with reports ranging from the mundane to something as bizarre as an elephant carcass.

In some urban areas of Britain it is difficult to walk more than a couple of streets without seeing a mouldering 1970s sofa or an old television.

The offenders vary from householders unsure of where or when to put out their rubbish, to gangs of criminal tippers charging businesses to dispose of waste on the cheap by avoiding fees at official dumps.

While crime and immigration can seem to dominate the political agenda, surveys of residents often find that fly-tipping is a burning issue.

Army of fridges

It is even on Tony Blair's radar now, with the prime minister including the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill in the last Queen's Speech.

The figures are staggering, with almost 28,000 fridges, freezers, and washing machines fly-tipped between July and December 2004.

In the last six months of 2004 local authorities alone spent around 24m clearing fly-tipping.

People just seem to think they can go and dump something there and get away with it
John Reynolds
Angry resident

The item most commonly recorded on the government's Flycapture database is a black bin bag of household rubbish deposited by the roadside.

Virtually every urban council in Britain, and also many rural areas, have schemes to hunt down those responsible for the plague of illegal rubbish, with tactics ranging from education to motion-sensing CCTV.

Robin Payne is assistant director of enforcement at Haringey Council in London, the location for the BBC's first series of Life of Grime. Under the banner, Better Haringey, the menace is being fought.

"We have people patrolling, trying to catch people out and challenge them, we've invested a lot in CCTV cameras, overt and covert.

"You've got people who are a bit too lazy to do the right thing, then there are people who do this in an organised way.

"The thing that most people would see is the black bags on street corners. We have lots of people who live in flats above shops and quite a high transient population. They sometimes don't understand what is appropriate."

The fly-tippers favourite target is the roadside
Despite regular collections, he admits "it is an eyesore and it appears to be a fly-tip".

His officers are not squeamish in their pursuit of the culprits.

"With black bags we can do searches of that bag and see if there is an association."

But although black bin bags are the most common offender, anyone living near waste ground can look out of their window to see some horrendous sights.

John Reynolds, a resident in Collyhurst, Manchester, is one of those determined to fight back.

"We've had washing machine parts, spoil from groundworks, cars, caravans.

"It is near to town, there are a couple of derelict tower blocks. People just seem to think they can go and dump something there and get away with it."

Fortunately for Mr Reynolds, his business is installing CCTV cameras and he has set up cameras to watch the procession of fly-tippers on their way to the derelict car park by his house.

'Extremely annoying'

As a result of his detective work a fly-tipper working for a utility company has already been caught.

"It is extremely annoying. I take pride in the area and I'm fed up of it happening."

Roy Harris, head of street enforcement at Newcastle City Council, is another who is tackling the problem.

"We see demolition waste, DIY waste, and bulky goods from shop fits like fridges and kitchen units."

But he is frustrated that prosecutions for serious dumping is often only rewarded with "derisory" fines for the people involved.

With the worst offenders only paying 10,000-15,000 and many suffering no consequences, he believes the problem will go on.

See the scale of Britain's flytipping problem

War on litter and graffiti urged
28 Jul 04 |  Politics
EU waste rules fuel fly-tip fears
16 Jul 04 |  Science/Nature

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