Fly tipping is the illegal deposit of waste onto land that does not have a licence to accept it. If you are working on a property development finance, you need to be aware that strangers must deposit waste on your site instead of taking it to the dump or clearing it up themselves. It is crucial to know how to protect your property from fly-tipping, what to do if you get fly tippers and how you can report it – it is a big deal, a huge cost for builders and developers and alas, must be stopped!

Why do people fly-tip?

People fly-tip to avoid paying the disposal fee, also known as the landfill tax. Although the disposal of household waste is paid for through council tax, any other waste is not. People are charged for their waste to be collected, or even to drop off the waste at a licensed site themselves.


Did you know that two-thirds of fly-tips involved household waste? Other illegally-dumped wastes include appliances like fridges and washing machines, waste from building and demolition work, vehicle parts and tyres. Hazardous wastes such as oil, asbestos sheeting and chemicals are also dumped illegally.

The sites most commonly affected by waste dumping include those near public waste tips, roadsides and private land – in particular, sites on the borders of cities, in back alleys and on deserted land.

Fly tipping statistics:

  • From 2016 to 2017, local authorities in England dealt with over a million fly-tipping incidents
  • The most common place for fly-tipping to occur is on highways, which accounted for almost half (49%) of total incidents in 2016 to 2017

The dangers of fly tipping

Dumping waste is illegal and a serious criminal offence that carries hefty fines. Offenders can even be sent to prison. Fly tipping pollutes the environment, degrades the look of an area, and can be a risk to human health and can harm wildlife and farm animals. The activity is seen as a major problem by over three-quarters of landowners.

It also costs significant amounts of taxpayers’ money to clear away. The estimated cost of clearance for fly-tipping to local authorities in England from 2016 to 2017 was £57.7 million.

The government is taking action against fly tipping

To tackle fly-tipping, the Government has introduced a variety measures, which give regulators and the courts the ability to impose tougher penalties on offenders. Fly-tippers can now be fined up to £50,000 in Magistrates’ Courts and face unlimited fines in higher courts, as well as community punishment orders or prison sentences of up to five years.

People convicted of fly-tipping offences can also be instructed to cover the costs of enforcement and investigation in addition to the waste removal costs.

It is also an offence to allow fly-tipping to take place. If you see someone fly-tipping:

  • Take note of the date and time you observed the tipping and its exact location
  • If possible take photographs of the waste
  • Note how many people are involved and what they look like
  • Take down details of the offenders’ vehicles including registration, manufacturer and colour

Try to identify the waste type and how much there is and record as many details about the incident as you can. This will help the authorities take action against fly-tippers and stop them fly-tipping in the future. However, make sure you do not:

  • Open bags or drums. Some wastes can be hazardous. Piles of soil may be contaminated or contain dangerous material. Waste may contain syringes, broken glass, asbestos, toxic chemicals or other dangerous substances.
  • Disturb the site; there may be evidence that could help identify the fly-tippers and lead to their prosecution

Remember that fly-tippers are taking part in an illegal activity and are unlikely to react well to anyone watching, taking videos or photographs.

If the waste is on your land and a prosecution is made successfully you may get your money back to cover the costs of clearing up. Use the form at the back of this guide to help you. This sets out the information the authorities will find useful when you contact them.

Farmers’ fly tipping crisis

A 2017 online survey, recently exposed the crisis that fly-tipping in the countryside is causing to farmers.

Over 1000 farmers were asked how often their farms had been targeted by fly-tippers over the last 10 years. Almost half (40%) said two to five times, while 28% said six to 10 times, and over a quarter (27%) said over 10 times. Only 5% of farmers surveyed said just once. Some farmers and landowners said they were being targeted repeatedly every month, explaining in frustration that it’s nearly impossible to catch offenders.

The cost of removing fly-tipped waste on private land must be met by the victims, according to current UK law. This leaves farmers are responsible for removing waste dumped on private land – they can be prosecuted if they fail to do so.

Two-thirds of farmers surveyed incurred significant losses for the waste removal, with the average cost per incident amounting to £844. Even worse, many repeat victims of fly-tipping have spent more than £10,000 tackling the problem over a 10 year period. There are positive signs of change, however.  During a Westminster debate on 21 November 2017 on fly-tipping in rural areas, Newton Abbott’s Conservative MP, Anne Morris, urged the UK government to change the legislation so that “polluters pay”.

She said: “It seems to me that we have effectively incentivised the individual householder to fly-tip, or to employ a third party to fly-tip for them, and we have incentivised the man with a van who might do furniture removals and so on to offer tip services, but then he does not get a licence and instead dumps on highways, woodland and farmland. It just does not work.”

“There is a burden on individual landowners and a requirement for them to clear up the land, and they get absolutely no contribution towards doing that.” Ms Morris argued, explaining that just 0.1% of fly-tippers are prosecuted – and the average penalty is a £400 fine. Ms Morris said a multi-agency approach is needed to tackle fly-tipping more effectively on farms.

A range of potential measures to combat fly-tipping were suggested during the debate. These included:

  • Using new technology to record offenders’ number plates
  • Extending opening hours of household-waste recycling centres
  • Providing an incentive for legal tipping by removing tip charges
  • Not rejecting people from waste recycling centres if they are not local
  • Imposing tougher penalties and fines on offenders

To find out more about waste crime and how you can report it, visit NI direct government services.