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Huge surge in fly-tipping as prosecutions fall by 95% and organised crime gangs act with impunity

Huge surge in fly-tipping as prosecutions fall by 95% and organised crime gangs act with impunity 2

Fly-tippers have created an eyesore after dumping mounds of old sofas, fridges and building materials in the city centre of Cardiff, as experts warn organised crime gangs across Britain are making a fortune from illegally disposing of waste. 

The piles of rubbish in the Welsh capital can be seen by rail passengers travelling into the city, and also include baths, mattresses, car tyres and garden waste. 

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The makeshift landfill lies under City Link flyover next to the Tyndall Street roundabout which links the Cardiff Bay, the city centre, Adamsdown and Splott.

A report published by the Welsh Government in December 2021 revealed that fly-tipping has increased by 22 per cent across Wales in the past year, and that Cardiff was the top area in Wales for issuing fixed penalty notices to tackle the scourge. 

A spokesperson for Cardiff council said: ‘Fly-tipping is completely unnecessary; it damages the environment and costs the taxpayer a significant amount of money each year.’ 

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However it admitted that when dealing with small scale fly-tipping, it prefers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices rather than prosecuting through the court, which ‘can be very expensive’. 

The old Stratstone Volvo Cardiff site on East Bay Close (pictured) has become a magnet for people dumping rubbish and fly tipping after the site was cleared for redevelopment

The old Stratstone Volvo Cardiff site on East Bay Close (pictured) has become a magnet for people dumping rubbish and fly tipping after the site was cleared for redevelopment

A report today warned how organised waste crime groups in Britain are costing local councils millions of pounds per year by fly-tipping rubbish for cash, with increasingly lax punishments allowing 'cowboys' to 'take us all for a ride'. (Pictured: The old Stratstone Volvo Cardiff site on East Bay Close)

A report today warned how organised waste crime groups in Britain are costing local councils millions of pounds per year by fly-tipping rubbish for cash, with increasingly lax punishments allowing ‘cowboys’ to ‘take us all for a ride’. (Pictured: The old Stratstone Volvo Cardiff site on East Bay Close)

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Empty oil cans, duvets and bags filled with trash can be seen at the makeshift landfill in Cardiff city centre

Empty oil cans, duvets and bags filled with trash can be seen at the makeshift landfill in Cardiff city centre 

A bike, old tents and what appears to be a massage table are among the thousands of items to be dumped in Cardiff city centre

A bike, old tents and what appears to be a massage table are among the thousands of items to be dumped in Cardiff city centre 

Sofas, baths, wardrobes, mattresses and mounds of other discarded items can be seen strewn across the site, which lies under the City Link flyover next to the Tyndall Street roundabout which links the Cardiff Bay, the city centre, Adamsdown and Splott

Sofas, baths, wardrobes, mattresses and mounds of other discarded items can be seen strewn across the site, which lies under the City Link flyover next to the Tyndall Street roundabout which links the Cardiff Bay, the city centre, Adamsdown and Splott

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The piles of rubbish in the Welsh capital can be seen by rail passengers travelling into the city, and also include baths (pictured), mattresses, car tyres and garden waste

The piles of rubbish in the Welsh capital can be seen by rail passengers travelling into the city, and also include baths (pictured), mattresses, car tyres and garden waste

The makeshift dump site lies under City Link flyover next to the Tyndall Street roundabout which links the Cardiff Bay, the city centre, Adamsdown and Splott

The makeshift dump site lies under City Link flyover next to the Tyndall Street roundabout which links the Cardiff Bay, the city centre, Adamsdown and Splott

Baby cots, foldable chairs, rucksacks and building materials are seen dumped by illegal fly-tippers underneath a flyover in Cardiff

Baby cots, foldable chairs, rucksacks and building materials are seen dumped by illegal fly-tippers underneath a flyover in Cardiff 

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A spokesperson for Cardiff council said: 'Fly-tipping is completely unnecessary; it damages the environment and costs the taxpayer a significant amount of money each year.' (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

A spokesperson for Cardiff council said: ‘Fly-tipping is completely unnecessary; it damages the environment and costs the taxpayer a significant amount of money each year.’ (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

A report published by the Welsh Government in December 2021 revealed that fly-tipping has increased by 22 per cent across Wales in the past year. (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

A report published by the Welsh Government in December 2021 revealed that fly-tipping has increased by 22 per cent across Wales in the past year. (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

Cardiff is the top area in Wales for issuing fixed penalty notices to tackle the scourge of fly-tipping. (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

Cardiff is the top area in Wales for issuing fixed penalty notices to tackle the scourge of fly-tipping. (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

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Officials are coming up against a growing number of crime groups attracted by the landfill tax increase, which has 'increased the potential financial return from illegal actions that evade landfill tax, such as misdescription of waste, illegal waste sites and some fly-tipping.' (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

Officials are coming up against a growing number of crime groups attracted by the landfill tax increase, which has ‘increased the potential financial return from illegal actions that evade landfill tax, such as misdescription of waste, illegal waste sites and some fly-tipping.’ (Pictured: Fly-tip site under flyover in Cardiff city centre)

How illegal fly-tipping gangs operate

Fly-tipping gangs have been around for at least a decade but their numbers are growing thanks to lax enforcement of the law, a report this week has suggested. 

The gangs work by running unlicensed and unregulated waste disposal services which fly-tip the waste rather than disposing of it legally – avoiding landfill taxes and undercutting legitimate waste disposal companies in the process.

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The fake companies attract customers online by posting competitive prices. 

They have been known to hire out buildings to dump their clients’ waste, costing local authorities tens of millions of pounds in clean-up costs since as early as 2012.

Once the buildings are filled to the brim with rubbish, the gangs disappear and leave it up to the landowner or council to sort out. 

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Others have begun renting land to bury lorry loads of trash, while others break into private property.  

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It added that ‘often the penalty given by the court does not justify the cost incurred.’ 

It comes as a report today warned how organised waste crime groups in Britain are costing local councils millions of pounds per year by fly-tipping rubbish for cash, with increasingly lax punishments allowing ‘cowboys’ to ‘take us all for a ride’. 

There has been a dramatic 95 per cent fall in waste crime prosecutions since 2007 and a tendency not to issue formal sanctions even when the Environment Agency does take action, the National Audit Office (NAO) said.

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Meanwhile, the increase in landfill tax rates has encouraged more organised crime groups to make money from illegally disposing of waste – with some travelling from England to Scotland to dump often hazardous rubbish in green areas. 

The report also warned that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) does not have the data to understand the full scale of waste crime, hindering its efforts to combat it.

Fly-tipping has soared over the last decade, according to report, reaching more than 1.13million incidents and costing councils £11.6million in 2020-21.

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But efforts to crack down on the problem by the Environment Agency and Defra have fallen short as organised crime groups are taking advantage of lenient enforcement laws.

The most common sanctions when the laws are enforced tend to be ‘issuing advice and guidance and sending warning letters’, which is handed out in over half of investigations rather than more formal sanctions such as fines or criminal proceedings, the report found.

The Environment Agency has also ‘increasingly focused its prosecutions on just the most serious cases’ due to resource constraints in recent years, leading to a reduction in annual persecutions from 800 in 2007 to 60 or fewer since 2017.

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Officials are coming up against a growing number of crime groups attracted by the landfill tax increase, which has ‘increased the potential financial return from illegal actions that evade landfill tax, such as misdescription of waste, illegal waste sites and some fly-tipping.’

The government was last night accused of ‘legalising littering’ after it was revealed that the number of fixed penalty notices (FPN) issued for fly-tipping fell by 24 per cent last year.

Though more than one million cases were recorded, enforcement action was only taken on 96,628 occasions, with just 57,621 FPNs and 1,313 fines issued.

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Labour MP Meg Hillier, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘Waste crime is not a victimless crime. 

‘Aside from being unsightly and polluting, it costs the economy almost £1 billion a year. Yet this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

A report today warned how organised waste crime groups in Britain are costing local councils millions of pounds per year by fly-tipping rubbish for cash, with increasingly lax punishments allowing 'cowboys' to 'take us all for a ride'. (Pictured: Graph shows increasing number of fly-tipping incidents in England)

A report today warned how organised waste crime groups in Britain are costing local councils millions of pounds per year by fly-tipping rubbish for cash, with increasingly lax punishments allowing ‘cowboys’ to ‘take us all for a ride’. (Pictured: Graph shows increasing number of fly-tipping incidents in England) 

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London sees the most fly-tipping incidents per people out of all areas of England, latest statistics show

London sees the most fly-tipping incidents per people out of all areas of England, latest statistics show 

‘Waste crime is increasingly dominated by organised criminal gangs, but the Environment Agency is fighting a losing battle. With only £17 million a year to spend on enforcement, it is seen as toothless to tackle the law breaking and to bring criminals to book.

‘Serious crime requires a serious response. Government can’t continue to let these criminals and cowboys take us all for a ride.’

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Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: ‘It is infuriating that while the vast majority of people play by the rules, law breakers are cashing in on this disgusting practice and getting away scot-free.

‘Conservative ministers have effectively legalised littering by turning a blind eye to this fly-tipping epidemic.’

Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said Defra was cracking down on waste crime and taking measures to tackle fly-tipping.

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Sir James Bevan, chief executive at the Environment Agency, said: ‘This is not an easy fight – but with the support of our partners we are determined to keep one step ahead of the criminals, shut them out of the system and move us towards an economy in which there is no space for waste crime.’

It comes after a BBC report earlier this year revealed how gangs were illegally burying thousands of tonnes of waste across Scotland. 

Some of the trash had been driven up from the north of England and contained hazardous waste from hospitals. 

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The merciless gangs threatened landowners if they refused to let them dump their waste on their land, with one claiming they were told all their animals would be killed if they did not comply. 

One gang member told the BBC the illegal trade had become as profitable as drugs, with at least one gang from northern England having several dumping sites in Scotland. 

There has been a dramatic 95 per cent fall in waste crime prosecutions since 2007 and a tendency not to issue formal sanctions even when the Environment Agency does take action, the National Audit Office (NAO) said. (Pictured: Fly-tipping site near Erith in Kent, in photo taken this month)

There has been a dramatic 95 per cent fall in waste crime prosecutions since 2007 and a tendency not to issue formal sanctions even when the Environment Agency does take action, the National Audit Office (NAO) said. (Pictured: Fly-tipping site near Erith in Kent, in photo taken this month) 

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According to the source, the landowner at one of the sites, which has been operational ‘for years’, would get paid £350 per lorry filled with domestic and hazardous clinical waste – receiving five lorry loads per day, five days a week. 

It means the landowner alone would receive more than £8,000 weekly from the illegal trade. 

Senior investigator with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa),Kath McDowall, said in January: ‘When people typically think of waste crime they think of small-scale fly-tipping and they don’t quite realise it’s happening on this scale.’

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She said Sepa was struggling by having to go toe to toe with gangs who had been involved in running drugs and weapons for decades.

Ms McDowall warned the groups had ‘taken lessons they’ve learned from doing other types of criminality and are now applying it to waste’, adding that Sepa’s resources were ‘pretty finite’. 

It is estimated that around 15 per cent of organised crime groups in Scotland have an interest in environmental businesses.

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They work by running unlicensed and unregulated waste disposal services which fly-tip the waste rather than disposing of it legally – avoiding landfill taxes and undercutting legitimate waste disposal companies in the process.

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