Landowners Plagued by Fly-Tipping May Require Environmental Liability Protection

UK lockdown has led to the authorities pointing to a sharp rise in fly-tipping, a social issue that already cost UK taxpayers nearly £60m[1] in 2019.  This is the tip of the iceberg, however, as experts suggest that private landowners bear an annual clean-up cost of between £50m and £150m[2].  

Whilst municipal tips have been closed, and whilst they are still operating on a restricted basis, fly-tipping is said to be becoming uncontrollable and a real issue for farmers.  According to the National Farmers Union, two-thirds of farmers have already been affected by having to tackle the dumping of general waste, household appliances and other types of rubbish on their land.[3] Now on top of this, there is a new situation with regard to plastic.

According to the grocery trade publication, The Grocer, there is a crisis affecting the UK’s recycling model, due to the plummeting in the cost of crude oil during the coronavirus pandemic.  As has been stated by the founder of TerraCycle, Tom Szaky, “Oil is what defines the material value because plastic is oil.”[4]  The consequence is that recycled plastic now has no value.

Plastic waste found itself heading to China for three decades before a ban on the importing of post-consumer plastic was introduced in 2017.  Such waste, which was then being recycled by waste companies, now has few buyers, as they are losing interest, particularly as the profits to be made from recycling packaging fall, the lighter it becomes, and the trend is for increasingly lighter packaging.  

Plastic has found itself at the heart of the fly-tipping issue for all of these reasons and due to a boom in the number of waste removal services which are unregistered.  A 300% increase in fly-tipping has resulted, according to The Countryside Alliance.[5]

Some of the waste can contain contaminants and hazards, with oils, solvents, asbestos and other harmful substances being prime examples. Should a contaminant seep into the land or find its way into water courses, the clean-up charges can be considerable.

New Apps are launching to try to address the issue, with one being created by waste disposal company, Biffa, and another by ClearWaste. It is hoped these Apps will deter fly-tippers who can face fines of £50,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years, if caught, under Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.[6]

Private and commercial landowners should check their property insurance to assess if any protection is provided for the cost of cleaning up fly-tipped waste. If there is no cover provided, it may be time to discuss Environmental Liability Protection with an insurance broker.

This social issue is likely to continue, so if you do need to discuss insurance that can assist you, please get in touch.

[1] https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-30/fly-tipping-britain-s-rubbish-problem-tonight/
[2] http://www.tacklingflytipping.com/landowners/1500
[3] https://www.nfuonline.com/cross-sector/environment/waste/waste-news/advice-how-to-deal-with-fly-tipped-waste/
[4] https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/plastic/could-coronavirus-be-the-last-straw-for-recycled-plastic/604535.article
[5] https://www.circularonline.co.uk/news/biffa-launches-new-app-in-response-to-lockdown-fly-tipping-surge/
[6] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/43/section/33