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In 2019, fly-tipping cost the UK taxpayer nearly £60m

Landowners Should Examine Insurance as Fly-Tipping Spikes

May 2020

In 2019, fly-tipping cost the UK taxpayer nearly £60m[1] – just a fraction of the total cost of clean-up operations, as it is estimated that the annual clean-up cost borne by private landowners is between £50m and £150m[2].  In lockdown, things have gotten worse and many farmers and landowners have no insurance protection that can assist.

Waste, household appliances and other types of rubbish are being thrown into farmland, with the National Farmers Union saying two-thirds of farmers are already affected.[3] But could the situation become even worse because of the position with plastic?

Trade magazine, The Grocer, says the UK’s recycling model is being thrown into crisis.  The cost of crude oil has plummeted during coronavirus.  In January 2020, a barrel cost $70; now it costs $20.  This is giving plastic no value as a recycled product because, as Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle says, “Oil is what defines the material value because plastic is oil.”[4]

For three decades, the world was used to sending its plastic waste to China.  Since China banned imports of post-consumer plastic in 2017, the waste has to go elsewhere.  But waste companies are losing interest is recycling plastic, as they cannot find buyers.  Additionally, the lighter packaging becomes, the lower the profits available from recycling it.

The amount of single-use plastic being used in lockdown is rising[5], and plastic packaging is generally viewed as hygienic.   Household waste is also increasing in volume and the recycling world has been thrown into a state of flux.

Whilst municipal recycling centres have been closed, and with current the lack of financial incentive to recycle plastic, waste has been disposed of in other ways. There has also been an increase in the number of unregistered waste removal services. The result, according to The Countryside Alliance, has been a 300% increase in fly-tipping.[6]

The issue for farmers, private landowners or businesses owning premises at which waste is deposited, is that they become legally responsible for cleaning up this fly-tipped waste. Despite not having created the issue themselves, they are forced to act or face punishment from the Environment Agency.[7]

Whilst general rubbish is enough of an issue, some waste could result in contamination or be hazardous.  It may include oils, solvents and asbestos, or other harmful substances and potentially lead to land or water contamination.  The cost of a clean-up can be significant.

New Apps are currently trying to come to the rescue of those on the wrong end of this problem.  Waste disposal firm, Biffa, has created a new App for recording fly-tipping whilst another App, ClearWaste is making the reporting of fly-tipping easier. This sort of technology could possibly make fly-tippers think again as, if caught, they could be handed a fine of up to £50,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years, under the terms of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 33.[8]

If you are a rural landowner or have business premises at which it is easy to dump waste unseen, you should examine your property insurance policy and see whether you have any protection for the cost of cleaning up fly-tipped waste.  If not, it may pay to consider Environmental Liability Protection, to assist you, if you feel you could become a fly-tipping victim.

The lifting of coronavirus restrictions will not bring an end to this social issue.  If you need insurance to cover the impacts of fly-tipping, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool.












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