Tackling Fly- Tipping on Council Estates

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Detrimental to the environment and local communities, fly-tipping is a very real societal issue at both a national and local community level. Aside from the unseemly visual impact it elicits, fly-tipping has broad implications on a financial level with significant costs for councils involved in the removal of excess waste, which then contributes to carbon emissions.

From a safety perspective, fly-tipping also creates fire-hazards and can contribute towards larger problems for communities by creating hot spots for crime and anti-social behaviour, such as vandalism, arson and drug-taking. This is one of the leading reasons that bin stores have often been located out of sight.

Current GOV Statistics

The latest statistics, as reported by DEFRA, stated local authorities in England were forced to deal with 1.09 million fly-tipping incidents in 2021/22, a 4% fall from the 1.14 million reported in 2020/21. In terms of fly-tipped household waste; arguably the real crux of the issue for local authorities, the total incidents were 671,000 in 2021/22, a 9% decrease from the previous year yet still amounting to almost ⅔ of all reported incidents.

The size of items dumped mostly fell under ‘small van loads’, amounting to 32% of total incidents, followed by the equivalent of a ‘car boot size or less’. Reportedly, the most common locations for fly-tipping were highways, pavements on residential streets and roads, accounting for 464,000 incidents.

Fly-tipping prosecution warning sign
Fly-tipping prosecution warning sign

While these figures illustrate that incidents of fly-tipping are on a slight decline, the sheer amount of fly-tipping incidents still in effect paints a troubling picture, with statistics for the 2022/23 year still yet to be formalised.

Current penalties for perpetrators range from an unlimited fine through to time-served in jail. Sentencing can be up to 12 months if referred to a Magistrates court and up to 5 years if referred to a Crown Court. While this is the serious end of the scale, local authorities were forced to carry out 507,000 enforcement actions in 2021/22, an increase of 11% from the previous year. What this suggests is that enforcement notices are an effective tool for local authorities, with increases in their distribution tending to have a direct impact on decreasing fly-tipping figures.

Keep Britain Tidy

Keep Britain Tidy is a leading UK-based independent environmental charity. Founded in 1960, they hold concurrent goals of eliminating litter and waste, improving local places and enabling people to live more sustainably.

In 2015, Keep Britain Tidy became the first and only charity to implement an innovative systemic approach, examining behavioural insights in order to tackle the issues hindering their goals. The organisation reported that local authorities deal with 25,000 incidents of fly-tipping each week, with most occurring across the Greater London region. The costs to clear these incidents for local authorities is close to £58m annually.

Keep Britain Tidy publication
Keep Britain Tidy’s Free Publication

Over the past few years, Keep Britain Tidy has conducted extensive research into why people fly-tip, focusing on households. They have compiled their findings into a new free publication entitled ‘Beyond the Tipping Point: Insights to Tackle Householder Fly-Tipping’.

Behavioural drivers for household fly-tipping – as noted in the publication –

  1. People don’t see small-scale household waste as encompassing ‘fly-tipping’.
  2. There are general expectations that instances of fly-tipping are collected quickly and without repercussions by local authorities.
  3. People perceive fly-tipping to have a low impact on their community.
  4. Certain types of fly-tipping are seen as more socially acceptable. For example, old furniture left curbside for free-pick ups, or leaving bags of unwanted items outside charity shops during non-business hours.
  5. Some people see fly-tipping as a ‘hassle-free’ option.
  6. Households are not managing their waste effectively and appropriately due to a lack of proper refuse facilities. 
  7. The perceived threat of enforcement for fly-tipping is low.

Problems for Council-Estate Environments

Waste and fly-tipping dumped around a communal bin area
Ineffective waste system in Council estate

Where there is a lack of effective communal waste disposal facilities or problems with collection policies, waste can quickly build up, leading to wider issues with fly-tipping on estates, where the blame is often attributed to rogue builders and waste carriers.

Council estates are often densely populated communities and, while the visual impact of fly-tipping is overwhelmingly negative, the emergence of fly-tipping sites can quickly encourage others to follow-suit and dump their own waste, enlarging the issue. 

Ultimately, it must be clearly demonstrated that fly-tipping presents a far less attractive and harmful alternative for waste disposal. Developing waste disposal measures and better facilities can ensure they are more effective at deterring fly-tipping and more accessible for users, particularly for residents of council estates where the provision of effective communal waste disposal areas is often lacking.

Fly-tipping Solutions

In addition to providing effective and appropriately designed and managed communal bin stores, there are a number of solutions that can be utilised to discourage household fly-tipping.

Based on current statistics and evidence, a reassessment is required of the use of imagery and terminology from a critical perspective in order to broaden understanding and engagement from residents. Clear communication in a targeted manner is integral for local authorities and communities in order to enforce that fly-tipping in any form is not tolerated.

Establishing CCTV systems provides an effective tool for local authorities in order to establish a blend of education and enforcement around fly-tipping. The unfortunate reality is that the threat of penalisation is often a powerful disincentive, while publicising instances where offenders have been prosecuted can also be utilised to increase the significance of enforcement for offenders.

The building of new narratives and campaigns can also help to illustrate the costs and community implications surrounding fly-tipping in order to build awareness, though the central solution should always be rooted in improving facilities for the collection of waste and recyclables.

No Waste On Streets is a collaborative initiative between Keep Britain Tidy and Newham Council that has earned an Environmental Services Award at the Local Government Chronicle Awards. The initiative saw the introduction of waste containers on streets in an effort to provide residents with a more appropriate solution than dumping their waste on streets to await collection, which created a negative visual impact and often encouraged further instances of fly-tipping.

Curb-side waste container
Waste container for No Waste On Streets

The initiative saw a 72% reduction in fly tipping, while the council’s use of CSI Tape and Social Impact Stencils to target fly-tipping hot-spots for six week periods on a rolling basis has also led to an average 42% reduction.

Poets Close in Rhydyfelin, South Wales is a case study that illustrates well the complex challenges that council estates and local authorities face when areas are run down and the knock on effect this has on communal facilities. The estate had a history of anti-social behaviour issues which included several incidents of arson and even the physical abuse of tenants. Fly-tipping had become a recurring issue due to safety concerns from tenants surrounding the communal bin areas, resulting in expensive removal costs. 
Working closely with the Newydd Housing Association, the team behind the Poets Close Regeneration Scheme, metroSTOR provided design and installations for the metroSTOR PBM Bin Store, in addition to offering expert advice on ways to increase the security of external spaces and increase resident engagement in improving recycling rates. Following the installation, only one case of fly-tipping has been reported, which was swiftly and successfully prosecuted by local authorities.

Developing Communal Bin Stores

Integral to combatting fly-tipping is establishing the means to capture household waste and recyclables at-source. metroSTOR provides a range of communal bin stores and housings that offer proven solutions for ensuring residents on council estates have an effective means to better manage their waste. Our 10-point guide provides a study for resolving even the most demanding of communal bin store facilities. 

metroSTOR PBL and PBM bin stores
Our new-look communal bin stores

Through a consideration of available footprints, metroSTOR facilitates the designing-out of free space in communal bin stores that tends to attract fly-tipping and instances of side waste in council estates. Helping to minimise the build up of side waste also reduces the fire risks they can produce, encouraging the safe and secure use of communal bin stores.

The use of clear signage & apertures is also a proven and effective means of enabling residents to better separate waste streams and increase recycling rates, with opportunities to introduce WEEE collection reducing fire risk and also eliminating the dumping of unwanted electrical items in general household waste.

Specifically, the metroSTOR PBL and PBM Bin Stores are enclosed wheelie bin units that are especially well-suited for establishing effective and secure communal waste facilities. They provide the means to contain and manage refuse and improve the aesthetic of communal bin stores on council estates. In addition, options for incorporating resident only access are available to eliminate instances of fly-tipping from non-residents, helping residents take great pride in their local environment.