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However beautiful your perfect environment might be - whether it's craggy mountains, rolling hills, clear blue lakes, forests and woodlands, stunning coastlines or even interesting cities, the magic is marred if they're litter-strewn or dirty. I don't recall having come across litter when travelling overseas - even when my Greyhound bus, Interrail and hitch-hiking days took me to many less-than-desirable areas - but I don't recall a litter problem in the UK back then either. It's certainly a problem here now and I wonder whether - if I were to travel my old routes again, I'd be just as disappointed to find that standards and 'civic pride' have dropped everywhere else too.
I must say I wasn't surprised to learn that fly-tipping in England increased so dramatically over the past 12 months... the number of incidents rose by 16%, to 1.13 million, with household waste accounting for 65%. Despite the rise in cases, court fines dropped 51%, to 1,313 from 2,672, with their total value decreased by 62%, to £440,000 from £1.2 million. Enforcement actions also fell, by 4%, to 456,000 from 474,000, while the number of fixed penalty notices dropped by 24%, to 57,600 from 75,400. The most common amount of rubbish dumped was equivalent to a small van load (34% of cases), followed by the equivalent of a car boot or less, (26%). Some 39,000 cases were considered enough to fill a tipper lorry, up from 33,000. Clearing up the large incidents cost local authorities £11.6 million, up from £10.9 million.
The rise in fly-tipping can be partly blamed on the pandemic, which caused many of our civic amenity tips to close or dramatically reduce operating hours and suspended many garden refuse and bulky waste collections. As money raised by penalties and fines goes back into Government coffers, I'm puzzled as to why more people weren't employed to apprehend the fly-tippers, to help cover the vastly increased costs of clearing up the mess, rather than fewer being around than there were pre-pandemic. Private landowners have to pay to clear rubbish dumped on their own land, and the National Farmers Union, whose members are suffering badly, is demanding better education for the public and the sharing of information between Government, local authorities, police and the Environment Agency, to ensure more offenders are prosecuted. It's also asking for adequate punishments that deter criminals from dumping waste illegally and easier ways for the public to recycle rubbish. I'm with the NFU all the way on this.
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9th December 2021