DATA released last week has revealed the growing cost of fly-tipping across Wokingham borough — but the council says this reflects its proactive approach.
Government figures compiled by the BBC reveals that since 2011, there have been 5,777 incidents of fly-tipping, costing more than £300,000 to clear in total.
Within this, there were 410 recorded major incidents — a lorry load or more — of fly-tipping, the most of which were recorded between 2017 and 2018.
Cost of waste disposal
The rise in dumping rubbish across the borough coincides with the requirement for residents to show a permit before using re3 recycling centres, which happened in July, 2016.
At the same time, charges were brought in for the disposal of household DIY waste at re3 recycling centres.
Since these decisions were made, there have been more than 2,000 incidents of fly-tipping in the borough.
Wokingham Borough Council says that they changed the way fly-tipping was reported and recorded in 2016 and this may be part of the reason why the number of reports increased.
But this trend is also documented in nearby councils. In 2016, residents in borough and district councils across Hampshire also had to start paying to dispose of household DIY waste.
At the same time, fly-tipping increased in nine borough and district councils in Hampshire, and all six borough councils in Berkshire — including Bracknell Forest and Reading.
In February 2017, re3 defended their decision to charge for the disposal of DIY-induced waste, using the definition of construction to do so.
A re3 spokesperson told The Wokingham Paper: “The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has confirmed that ‘local authorities can of course charge for disposal of non-household waste such as car tyres and construction and demolition waste’.
“The use of the phrase ‘construction and demolition waste’ is a direct reference to the legislation.
“The definition of construction states that it includes ‘improvement, repair or alteration’. We know that some visitors to the recycling centres improve, repair or alter their homes and gardens, and bring us the resulting non-household waste.”
Using this definition, re3 have been charging for the disposal of soil and rubble, asbestos, and plasterboard generated through household DIY projects.
New data now reveals that these charges coincide with a rise in fly-tipping.
Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment, said: “Fly-tipping is a crime and a blight on our beautiful Borough. It also undermines legitimate waste businesses where unscrupulous operators undercut those operating within the law. “Anyone caught will be severely punished and we want to keep our Borough free of fly-tipping.
“We have developed a local fly-tipping strategy and comprehensive action plan detailing how Wokingham Borough Council is working with local partners and stakeholders to prevent fly-tipping occurring, respond quickly to incidents and take appropriate enforcement action.”
He added: “53% of our waste is recycled and we would like to thank our residents who respect our borough and dispose of their waste responsibly.”
Compared to neighbouring boroughs, Wokingham suffers the most from major incidents of fly-tipping. This is when a lorry-load or more of waste is abandoned in one incident of fly-tipping.
This costs the borough significantly more to clean up, with a bill of more than £36,000 over the last nine years.
Between 2017 and 2018, there was an exponential soar in abandoned waste, with 158 major incidents of fly-tipping across the borough. This bore a cost of £2,918 to clear.
However, between 2018 and 2019, there was a higher cost to clear fewer major incidents.
With 115 incidents during this time, the cost was £13,800.
Dave Lamont, from The Plastic Free Home, said: “I find the fact that anyone thinks it is okay to fly tip waste incomprehensible due to the cost involved – both financially and environmentally.
“I would urge anyone having a clear out to ensure that they use only fully licensed waste carriers and to ask any companies or individuals they are considering using about where their waste will end up.
“It may often be cheaper to dispose of things yourself, even if this means hiring a van.
“Hopefully residents will remain active in reporting such incidents and the Council will continue to make how to do this clear and easy.”
Cllr Clive Jones, deputy leader of Wokingham Lib Dems has been campaigning since the issue of waste charging was raised. He said: “Wokingham Borough council are very aware that fly-tipping has increased in the last few years and they are developing a strategy for tackling fly tipping across the borough which is of course to be welcomed.
“It appears that these major instances of fly tipping could be as a result of residents now having to pay to dispose of household DIY waste.
“A charge for the collection of DIY household waste was introduced by the Conservatives in July 2016.
“On a number of occasions through 2016,17 and 18, I called for these charges to be suspended pending legal clarification of the charges that had been introduced by the Conservatives through their waste contractor RE3.
“In March 2017, Baroness Kate Parminter asked a written question of the Environment Minister Lord Bourne, about the appropriateness of charging for the disposal of DIY waste.
“The reply came back that, ‘The Government has been clear that DIY waste should be classed as household waste if it results from work a householder would normally carry out, and that this should be disposed of at a household waste recycling centre for free’.
“I then provided the Conservative executive member with a copy of Lord Bournes reply.
“The Conservatives chose to ignore this and continued to charge for the disposal of household DIY waste.
“The guidelines issued on April 10, 2017 by Andrea Leadsom the Secretary of State for the Environment and several other Ministers clearly stated that they will ‘stop councils from charging householders for disposal of DIY household waste at civic amenity sites (rubbish dumps) – legally, household waste is supposed to be free to dispose of at such sites’.
“Again this was ignored by the local Wokingham Conservatives.
“I along with Cllr Ricky Duveen, Lib Dem councillor in Reading called on the three council directors of RE3 to resign after they decided to continue with the charges, they didn’t.
“I have no doubt that some of the increase in major incidents of fly tipping will be as a result of these charges imposed by the Conservatives and RE3.”