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Could UK's rotting waste replace pandemic with the plague?
Government urged to upgrade recycling workers to critical status and reopen council tips
Mountains of waste are being flytipped in epic proportions across Britain, as warnings are raised that the Government risks replacing the coronavirus pandemic with a plague if councils keep recycling and waste tips shut during the lockdown.
Security company, the VPS Group, has called on the government to list waste disposal staff as critical workers, require councils to reopen their tips, and allow households to include waste disposal as an essential trip.
Councils and local authorities across the UK closed their tips and waste disposal centres after Government advice on non-essential travel during the Covid-19 crisis.
"Illegal flytipping in the UK had already reached record levels this year, before the coronavirus pandemic had arrived, at a rate of one dump of rubbish occurring every 30 seconds, with over a million recorded cases in 12 months," says James Ford, director of branch operations, VPS.
"Now though, with council sites closed, it's a free-for-all, and reports are already indicating that figure has trebled."
The fixed penalty fines for minor flytipping and the more substantial incidents which can attract criminal records, unlimited fines and 12 months' imprisonment, are not regarded as likely to impact on the problem, according to VPS, which deploys one of the largest Europe-wide networks of CCTV towers to secure and protect properties and remote sites.
"There's just not enough resources available to police this type of crime. Quite apart from the environmental hazards, the costs to local authorities and to private landowners of the clean-up, there is the significantly serious risk of the spread of other diseases, from the explosion in the rodent population that occurs with rotting waste."
Pest-related problems include bacterial infections like Weil's disease, an infection spread in the urine of rats, and can cause jaundice and sickness in humans. Mice in the UK have also been known to carry a new US-born virus called hantavirus, where victims can suffer a fever and even internal bleeding and organ damage.
Two years ago, an expert from the Government's Animal & Plant Health Agency even warned that the bacterium responsible for the Black Death, which killed three million people - half of the UK's population in medieval times - could find its way back to Britain. He said black rats, the bacterium's hosts, had recently reappeared in some parts of the UK, adding: "The species has the potential to reestablish large populations in areas of urban decay".
Apart from calling on Government to reopen official waste tips, the VPS Group is also recommending:
- installing wireless remote monitored CCTV at sites regularly being targeted by flytippers
- that people caught on camera in the illegal act of flytipping should be named and shamed
16th April 2020