ARCHIVE: Farm waste and recycling: Fly-tipping

Fly-tipping is the unauthorised dumping of waste on land not licensed to receive it. Examples of waste items commonly fly-tipped include fridges, mattresses, garden refuse, tyres and building waste.

Fly-tipping causes problems because:

  • it poses a threat to the environment and human health
  • it is unsightly and can affect local business prosperity and property prices
  • illegal operators undermine legitimate waste businesses by undercutting their prices
  • it costs a significant amount of money to investigate and clear up

Any incident should be reported to your local authority and the 24 Hour Environment Agency hotline – 0800 80 70 60.

Both the Environment Agency (EA) and local authorities have powers to tackle fly-tipping. The Environment Agency investigates larger-scale incidents involving organised gangs of fly-tippers.

The EA also manages a national fly-tipping database, Flycapture, on behalf of Defra. The database collects information on fly-tipping and is designed to help local authorities improve intelligence on fly-tipping and focus resources on the hot spots.

Fly-tipping and the law

The main legislation governing fly-tipping is the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which makes it illegal to fly-tip. Other rules also apply:

  • it is an offence to permit or authorise fly-tipping unless a Waste Management Licence is held
  • where fly-tipping involves the use of a vehicle, the driver and the owner of the vehicle can be prosecuted
  • the police have powers to seize vehicles used for fly-tipping

ENCAMS (Environmental Campaigns), which runs the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, details the laws which apply to fly-tipping in its Fly-tipping and the Law – a guide for the public (PDF document, 1.14Mb)

Local authorities are responsible for clearing up fly-tipping on publicly-owned land, including roads and lay-bys. Further information is available in the EA’s Summary of Duties and Powers, Appendix 2 – January 2005.

If someone is prosecuted for fly-tipping on your land the courts can award costs to cover the clean-up following the introduction of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act in 2005.

Fines for fly-tipping are normally up to £50,000 and/or twelve months’ imprisonment.

If the case goes to Crown Court, fines are unlimited and offenders can be imprisoned for up to five years.

Why do people fly-tip?

There are several excuses people state for fly-tipping including to avoid paying the disposal fee called the landfill tax, find out more from the Landfill Tax Regulations 1996.

Flycapture, the national fly-tipping database, is recording over 50% of fly-tipping incidents are household rubbish, which is already paid for through council tax, but other waste is not. A charge generally exists to have this waste removed or to drop the waste off at a licensed tip yourself.

What to do if you see someone fly-tipping

  • don’t approach them – they may become violent
  • don’t touch the waste – it might be hazardous
  • make a note of the date, time and place
  • write down a short description of the waste
  • describe any vehicle involved and its registration number
  • report the incident to your local council and the EA

Your waste – staying within the law

If you give waste from your business to someone else you have a legal responsibility to ensure waste is kept safe, and that they are authorized to take it. These obligations came in under the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) regulations, which are explained in Defra’s leaflet Waste – Duty of Care (PDF document, 216KB).

Before choosing a waste receiver check they have a licence, and that the licence allows them to take the type and quantity of waste involved.

You can find out whether your waste receiver is authorised and legitimate by typing their postcode into the Environment Agency’s public register.

Further guidance on making sure you stay within the law when dealing with your business waste can be found in Defra’s Waste Management: The Duty of Care: a code of practice (PDF document, 238K). Free paper copies of this leaflet can be ordered from Defra Publications, telephone 08459 556 000.

Businesses must get a written description of the waste and who it is being transferred to in the form of a Waste Transfer Note. These notes need to be kept for two years and can be annual ‘season tickets’. Householders do not have to keep transfer notes but are required to make sure they pass their household waste on to authorised persons.

Hazardous waste

The illegal disposal or fly-tipping of hazardous waste is especially difficult, because of the damage it may cause to the environment and human health. A definition of hazardous waste and the special rules that apply can be found in Defra’s leaflet Waste – can you handle it? (PDF document, 250KB).

Useful links


Further information

  • Defra helpline – 08459 335 577 (local call rate)
  • Environment Agency customer contact centre – 08708 506 506

Page last modified: 1 July 2006
Page published: 1 July 2006