House of Commons Library

Fly-tipping - the illegal dumping of waste

Published Monday, June 25, 2018

This Commons Library briefing paper gives a general overview of the extent of the problem of fly-tipping in England and the powers and responsibilities of the Environment Agency, local authorities and landowners to deal with it. It also sets out recent Government actions to tackle it and proposals for reform.

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As waste is a devolved issue, this briefing paper focuses on England, unless otherwise specified. Information on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be provided to Members and their staff on an enquiry by enquiry basis.

What is fly tipping?

Fly-tipping is the illegal disposal of household, industrial, commercial or other 'controlled' waste without a waste management licence. The waste can be liquid or solid. Fly-tipping is not the same as littering. 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, 2016/17, show that:

    1. For the 2016/17 year, local authorities in England dealt with around 1 million (1,002,000) fly-tipping incidents, a 7% increase from the previous year.
    2. Two thirds (67%) of fly-tips involved household waste. Total incidents involving household waste increased by 8% from 2015/16.
    3. The estimated cost of clearance for fly-tipping to local authorities in England in 2016/17 was £57.7 million.

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 and dispose of it legally.

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

Fly-tipping is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates' Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court. There are also a number of other possible penalties, including fixed penalty notices and having a vehicle seized.

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. The Government has said that it does not intend to change the law here.

Government plans for reform

The Government has concerns about the situation where householders allow an unauthorised person to take their waste away, and where the waste is then fly-tipped. In January 2018 it published a consultation on proposals to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector & introduce a new fixed penalty for the waste duty of care.

Further proposals related to fly tipping are expected in a forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.

Commons Briefing papers SN05672

Authors: Louise Smith; Sara Priestley; Alison Pratt

Topics: Agriculture, Agriculture and environment, Anti-social behaviour, Countryside, Environmental protection, Pollution, Waste management

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