New figures have revealed that fly-tipping had gone up by 20% in England in 2013/14. And the vast majority of the rubbish dumped illegally on our streets, in our parks and on our beaches comes from households.
As a charity that campaigns to improve the quality of our local environment, for clean and safe public spaces, Keep Britain Tidy is obviously disappointed to see that more of our public spaces are being blighted by fly-tipping.
But why has it gone up? Is it that people are producing more rubbish? Is it that they simply don’t care if our streets turn into a dumping ground?
Probably not is the honest answer. Several things have happened in the past few years that may have led to this sudden and significant increase.
Chief among these is the fact that local authorities have faced years of cuts that have seen budgets slashed and services squeezed. This has led, in some places, to local tips and recycling centres being closed so people need to travel some distance to get to the appropriate facility.
It has also resulted in some local authorities introducing or increasing charges for bulky waste and garden waste collections and if you don’t have a car, getting rubbish to the tip under your own steam can be almost impossible.
The bill for clearing up all this fly-tipping is now £45.2m a year. And when councils are able to pinpoint the culprits – and more than half a million enforcement actions were carried out in 201/14 – the cost of that action adds up to £17.3m.
As is the case with litter, we can either keep on clearing up the fly-tipping and dealing with the knock-on effects of degraded local environments with their economic and social consequences, or we can, as a country, decide that we should invest in campaigns and approaches to change behaviour and help people – both householders and businesses - to understand how and why they should do the right thing and dispose of their rubbish responsibly.
Changing behaviour is never easy. It takes time and investment. We need people to feel that it is worth caring about the places they call home and we need to make sure that the investment is put into campaigns and activities that are tested and that will make a difference.
Helen Bingham is communications manager with Keep Britain Tidy Group