Thursday, 23 February 2017

Should Fly Tippers Go To Prison?

We learned last week that a Peterborough man has been sentenced to a week in prison for fly tipping a stinky freezer in beautiful countryside in Northamptonshire.

The Judge felt that his only option was to send the man to prison as 'it was unlikely costs would be recovered'. (Read the full story in the Peterborough Telegraph).

Is jail time ever the right response to fly tipping?

I think not, and I'll explain why.

1. Jailing people is a huge cost to the taxpayer 

According to Prisoner Focus Education, it costs £65,000 to imprison a person once police, court costs and all other steps are taken into account. After that, it costs a further £40,000 for every year they spend incarcerated.

2. Jailing a fly tipper doesn't educate the public about fly tipping

Why do people fly tip? I've seen a lot of fly tipping around Peterborough. I've come to the conclusion that there are four different types of fly tipper messing up our city.

Four types of fly tipper

1. Residents who think they'll get away with it

Let's be honest. At one time or another many of us have decided that we can't wait for the council, or can't easily get to the recycling centre in Dogsthorpe and so have fly tipped our rubbish and hoped to get away with it. Out of sight, out of mind. It happens. Someone's doing it. If not you, then someone you know, and maybe someone you least suspect!

Take the example highlighted in the Peterborough Telegraph of the man who fly tipped the stinky freezer. The stink was apparently so bad that the van he used to transport it in had to be 'condemned'. So even before the freezer had been dumped a poor decision had been made. If the guy had called the council he wouldn't have gone to prison for a week, wouldn't have a criminal record and would still have his van! Absolutely crazy. And yet it's a risk that many people are taking.

2. Rogue traders

Some people know full well that fly tipping is anti-social and illegal and do it anyway. Some of these people are rogue traders who routinely prey on residents by knocking on doors and offering to take their larger items of rubbish to the recycling centre for what seems a reasonable fee. The problem is, unless they have an appropriate commercial licence and operate their business in a law-abiding manner, there's every chance these people will fly tip your rubbish. If the police are able to discover that the rubbish belonged to you then you are responsible for it and you are going to find yourself in a lot of trouble.

Rogue traders are a matter for the police and if you suspect a rogue trader has tried to persuade you to allow them to get rid of your rubbish the police will appreciate a call on 101 to let them know about it.

3. Rogue landlords

A lot of the fly tipping that we see around Orton is clearly house clearance. Some of it may be rubbish dumped by tenants or homeowners who are moving out and haven't made any arrangements to transport the items they no longer want to the recycling centre.

However, many landlords will need to do a house clearance before they can move new tenants in, either because the previous tenants have left things behind or because fixtures and fittings have been left in such a poor state that they must be disposed of. All landlords know of their responsibility when it comes to house clearance, yet it is obvious that some are fly tipping their rubbish (or the companies they subcontract for house clearance are fly tipping it).

If you see this happening in your street, report it to the council on 01733 747474.

4. Those who genuinely need more help

There are also residents who genuinely do not know what to do with their bulky waste and end up fly tipping it because they don't know what else to do. Before you cry 'You're too soft, Julie!', please consider this. Not everyone has the skills or the confidence to talk to the council about coming to take their rubbish away and not all have the means to take rubbish to the recycling centre themselves. These people need more help. In our highly disposable society, where furniture and furnishings are not made to last, they need to know what to do and how to make it happen. They will benefit enormously from a clear council information campaign, backed up with measures to make getting rid of large items EASY to do. More about this at the end of this article.

The charges are to blame!

Many people in Peterborough will say that fly tipping has got a lot worse since Peterborough City Council (PCC) began charging a £23.50 fee to take away bulky items. I don't doubt that this is true and I believe that residents should keep telling PCC that you are unhappy about the charge. I can assure you that a Green Party city council would take a different view on fly tipping because we believe that placing additional charges on residents for things they find difficult to do without help is not acceptable.

People are also, very understandably, annoyed at being asked to pay an additional charge to have their brown (garden waste) bin emptied. Many people simply can't afford this charge (£39 per year) and, as with the bulky item charge, there is a strong argument that the cost of this service should be covered by the council tax charge.

Brown bin
Are you happy to pay £39 per year to have this emptied?

What's the answer?

I don't believe prison is the right place for fly tippers. I believe the right place for fly tippers is out in the fresh air on community service, clearing fly tipping and learning how fly tipping harms communities and our natural environment.

Peterborough Green Party organises a litter pick somewhere in the city once a month at 10am on a Sunday morning. Join us and I guarantee that you will never feel the same way about litter and fly tipping again. Check out our Facebook page.

If you have bulky waste that doesn't go in the back bin please take it to Household Recycling Centre at Dogsthorpe.

If you can't get to the Household Recycling Centre, for £23.50 PCC will arrange to collect some bulky items from you. More information about the PCC service.

If you spot fly tipping, report it to PCC by calling 01733 747474 or us the My Peterborough app or FixMyStreet.

We don't have to put up with fly tipping Peterborough, but we do need to take collective responsibility for it. That means disposing of our own rubbish responsibly and reporting to the council any fly tipping that you come across. If you feel that PCC should do away with the £23.50 charge for collecting larger items and/or the £39 per year charge for garden waste then let your city councillor know. Many people feel that fly tipping in Peterborough got far worse when PCC introduced the £23.50 large item charge and a time-consuming and inconvenient permit scheme for taking rubbish to recycling centre by van. If you think these charges and/or the permit scheme are unfair, tell your councillor.

Full skip
Better in a skip than all over the street or in the woods

Fly tipping amnesties

Peterborough Green Party believes there is another way to tackle fly tipping in communities and that is through the provision of community skips. The idea is to place a skip in a community for a few hours, publicise it well so that residents know it's there and can make arrangements to get their items to the skip, and make sure that there are security measures in place to prevent misuse of the skip.

There are plans to trial such a skip in Orton Goldhay this April. Nearer the time I will tell you more about this free service and will be asking for your help to make sure that everyone knows about it. Together we will make the amnesty a success and send out a strong message to everyone who lives in, has property in or who visits Orton that fly tipping is not acceptable here.


  1. Heres some ideas:

    When I lived in France, we had a day once a month when you could put **anything** domestic outside your house and it would be removed, no charge and no questions asked, by the city council. People would cruise the streets the evening before pickup and get choice items. I once put a sofa out, and it disappeared in a couple of hours before the council arrived. That deals with your items 1,2 and 4. If the council will take stuff away for free, and on a regular basis, then the rogue market trader is out of business.

    House clearance is different issue, so unless you treat it as a legitimate problem then you aren't going to get a legitimate solution. Conversely, if you provide a legitimate solution then you can (and should) clearly enforce strong penalties as a deterrent. A landlord should be able to get access to a reasonable number of skips per year based on the number of rented properties at a price that makes it unprofitable for the rogue trader to work. There should be a penalty for using an unlicensed trader, not just for the fly tipping.

    People act selfishly and in their own interests, they always have done, they always will do and no amount of righteous pleading is going to stop that. The only thing you can attempt to do is to mitigate the damage they cause by creating a solution that requires less effort (and costs less) than the solution they currently employ:

    "Don't secretly load that old mattress into your car in the middle of the night, and drive it out into the countryside to dump it, leave it outside your house on the last Friday of the month and we'll take it away for free!"

    "Don't pay a rogue contractor 200 pounds to haul away this house clearance material, as a landlord you've already paid 100 pounds to get 4 skips for the year, and by the way, if you do use an unlicensed contractor and we catch him and identify you, we will send you to prison"

  2. Thank you, Jack. This is very smart and I agree pretty much with all of this. You raise an interesting point about France and it has been put to me that perhaps we need to do more to educate people who have moved here from other countries with different services that things work differently here. I don't think most residents are even aware that the council will take larger items for £23.50 and have seen people on Facebook offering more money to a trader when the council would take it for less!

    The only issue you raise that I'd query is the point about leaving it out and it will get taken by someone. The problem is you don't know what that someone will then do with it. There's every chance that a 'rogue trader' will routinely pick up everything and later fly tip what they don't want or can't use. This is why when we have community skips we recommend security so that no one can remove things from the skips only to then fly tip them elsewhere.

    Ultimately, we live in a very disposable society and council services aren't up to the job any more. Single use plastic and the death of the deposit scheme for bottle has resulted in many of the problems we experience today.

    It's now the Great Keep Britain Tidy weekend. I hope many novice litter pickers will catch the bug for picking up litter. But I hope even more that councils across the UK will realise that their services are inadequate and strive to find a solution to fly tipping that is fit for the 21st century.

  3. Obviously you'll never get 100% compliance, to hope for that is self defeating. You could however put forward a political compromise, in that if the take-up on the issues was say, 75%, and I think that communicating the hows and whys to the public would be important - To go back to my time in France, the automated sign outside the town hall would always announce the pick-up dates - you could see the cost of the program being revenue neutral if it reduced the amount of money spent on fly-tip clear up

    1. Hi Jack, Communication is absolutely at the heart of this. There's going to be a pilot skip arranged by one of the Peterborough parish councils that I belong to in a couple of months from now and I only imagine this being a success if we promote its existence for all we're worth. It will be very interesting to what, if any, effects pilot has on residents and possibly on local council policy.