I pass almost daily along a single-track road near where I live and have noted that there are certain parts at which rubbish is regularly fly-tipped. If the items are on the roadside the council are generally on the scene fairly quickly and remove the rubbish, though often not before much of it has blown away into fields or woodland. My blood boils each time I see a new item or load of rubbish. Recent items have been branches from trees, a roll of carpet, an old fridge and a huge tin that had been used to hold paint. Whether the tin was full, empty or part-full I have no idea.
The latest items, dumped on the roadway in a passing place, were – so far as I could see without stopping – a large number of pots, pans and electrical equipment. This was yesterday, but since this was such a blatant act I went back today to take a photograph. The council had been in double quick time, probably because the rubbish was in a passing place, and removed it. What I had not seen until I drew up with the camera was a large amount of bags and boxes at the edge of the birch wood adjacent to the passing place. Removing this clutter is the responsibility of the landowner, not the council, hence the reason they were still there.
None of the bags or boxes appeared to have been inspected for any details of the person who might have left them, which was disappointing. The clear-up rate for the offence of fly-tipping must be as low as in any type of criminality. It is believed that 250 million visible items are littered each year and that there are at least 61,000 incidents of fly-tipping in the UK. Surely some of these must be solvable through clues left behind by the perpetrator.
I had also hoped to photograph polystyrene fish and chip boxes (which should be banned) and a number of discarded juice cans and cartons left at the side of the same road over the same weekend. A car-load of ant-social individuals had clearly parked at a spot often used by dog walkers to park their car, had their fish suppers and dumped all the containers. Again before I got my photo I learned from a near neighbour that she had cleared the mess, which had also included two receipts for items paid for by credit card. There must be many instances like this where, if the authorities looked, they could find the answer and get the criminal before a court, since it is a criminal act contravening the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The available penalty is level 4 – £2,500 – a not insubstantial sum.
There may be enquiries that local authorities and SEPA don’t have the authority to carry out, such as establishing a suspect’s details through a receipt, but a joint investigation with the police should solve that problem. I suspect, though, that council employees driving round gathering up rubbish from fly-tipping will have had no investigative training. Some basic training is all that is required so maybe it is time for local authorities to take that on board and begin to make a difference.