What is Fly-tipping?

11th March 2024

By Graham Matthews

Fly-tipping is illegal rubbish dumping. Disposing of household, industrial, commercial or controlled waste on unlicensed land is fly-tipping. It’s a wide-ranging offence that includes everything from discarding an old mattress in a public park to dropping off tonnes of industrial waste at an unlicensed private site.

Dumping rubbish on public land or private property (even your own land) is fly-tipping if it doesn’t have a licence to accept it. This is different from littering, which is simply discarding small materials associated with eating, drinking, and smoking in the wrong place. Fly-tipping covers household and commercial waste.

Fly-tipping damages the environment and local ecosystems and is unsightly. Every year the UK government deals with more than one million incidents of fly-tipping that cost millions for councils (and therefore council taxpayers) to clear up. Discover all you need to know about fly-tipping so we can all work to eliminate it.

fly-tipping rubbish next to a field.

Why is it called fly-tipping?

The term fly-tipping is of British origin and simply means dumping any type of waste illegally on unlicensed premises. Two parts make up the phrase:

  • On the fly – doing something quickly without thinking too much about how it should be done.
  • To tip – to throw something out (often from a vehicle).

What is classed as fly-tipping?

Illegally disposing of household, business, or industrial waste of any type and amount in a location not licensed to accept it classes as fly-tipping. It could be solid or liquid waste and anything from one item like an old mattress to bags of rubbish. There’s a wide range of things that can class as fly-tipping.

Some common examples of fly-tipping include:

  • Putting bags of household waste next to a public litter bin
  • Leaving white goods and appliances out on the street
  • Dumping mattresses and furniture in a local park
  • Pouring industrial liquid waste into a stream or river
  • Spreading garden waste in public woods or green space
  • Burying household or commercial waste in your own garden

Why is fly-tipping bad?

Fly-tipping is an irresponsible way to manage any type and volume of waste. It’s harmful to the environment as the rubbish isn’t treated properly, recycled, or recovered. Depending on the materials, the waste may break down slowly and release hazardous and toxic elements that enter nearby soil and water.

Wildlife and domestic pets may encounter the dumped waste and try to eat it, which can cause choking, health issues, and death. If hazardous, clinical, infectious, and other dangerous waste types are discarded then it may also impact human health (especially children). Fly-tipping is a danger to anyone who comes across it.

Illegally dumping waste also ruins local areas as it’s unsightly, starts to smell, and may encourage others to fly-tip in the same spot. Cleaning up fly-tipping is also expensive and time-consuming for councils and local authorities. This is paid for by the taxpayers and the funds could be better used on other public services.

fly-tipped rubbish in waste bags on grass.

Is fly-tipping a criminal offence? 

Fly-tipping is a criminal offence in the UK. Criminal convictions for fly-tipping carry potential penalties including a fine and a possible jail sentence. Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is the legislation that covers fly-tipping. It states that a waste offence occurs when:

“Depositing, knowingly causing or knowingly permitting the deposit of controlled waste or extractive waste on land without, or other than in accordance with, an environmental permit.”

How much is a fly-tipping fine?

Fly tipping fines vary in amount depending on where, when, and who they’re issued by and the circumstances of the offence. The maximum fine for anyone caught fly-tipping in the UK is £1,000 when issued with a fixed penalty notice (FPN). Fines for fly-tipping on larger scales can result in more serious penalties.

Any cases that go to the magistrates’ court and lead to a conviction could lead to a potential jail sentence of up to 12 months and an unlimited fine. In the Crown Court, there’s a maximum penalty of a five-year jail sentence and an unlimited fine. The amount and type of waste dumped illegally, and other circumstances may affect the fine.

How to report fly-tipping

Report fly-tipping to your local council (or the authority that covers the location where you witnessed illegal waste dumping). Normally you can do this through their website. Reporting fly-tipping is important to hold those responsible to account, ensure the rubbish is cleaned up, and dissuade others from dumping waste illegally.

Use the UK government site for reporting fly-tipping. Simply enter your postcode to find the details of your local council’s website where you can report fly-tipping.

How to stop fly-tipping

Prevent fly-tipping from your business by arranging commercial waste collection with licensed waste carriers – such as Divert. This ensures your business waste is removed and disposed of safely, legally, and responsibly. Check the credentials of those who remove your rubbish and that you receive a duty of care certificate that confirms the disposal method.

Dispose of all domestic waste in your household bins, take it to your nearest household waste recycling centre (HWRC), or book a man and van removal. These options should ensure your waste is disposed of, recycled, and recovered through the proper channels and not dumped illegally.

Reporting fly-tipping can help prevent it in your area. Other people and businesses dumping waste on your premises illegally can be infuriating too. These are a few ways to stop fly-tipping on your property:

  • Secure the boundary – high fences and walls make it harder for people and vehicles to access your property to dump waste.
  • Install CCTV – capturing footage of any fly-tipping can help lead to a prosecution, which should reduce the risk of it reoccurring.
  • Display clear signs – putting up CCTV warning signs may make criminals think twice about fly-tipping if they think there’s a risk of being caught.
bags of waste dumped on the side of a street.

Is it illegal to put rubbish 
in someone else’s bin?

The legalities around putting rubbish in someone else’s bin aren’t clear. Technically, it could be considered fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour as you’re dumping waste somewhere that’s not licensed to accept it. Prosecutions for throwing a bag of refuse in your neighbour’s bin are unlikely though.

Should you place hazardous waste or lots of rubbish in their bin consistently it may lead to legal action. If you’ve got rubbish that won’t fit in your bin – such as bulky items or bags of garden waste – contact Divert for a free quote for waste collection to avoid fly-tipping. Call 0333 444 0118 or contact us online.

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