The culprits tend to think of this practice as a victimless crime; but estimates put the cost to Scottish tax payers at £8.9 million a year to clear and dispose of tipped rubbish from council land. Farmers and other countryside custodians must meet the cost of clearing rubbish from private land themselves, at an average of £1,000 a time. As the problem tends to be concentrated on the urban fringe, those that farm here have a disproportionate burden to bear.
Fines of up to £40,000 can be imposed but, given budgetary constraints, the pursuit of fly tippers is well down the list of priorities of councils and the police. Furthermore, it is hard to gather evidence to bring a successful prosecution.
The landfill tax, which has soared since its introduction to £86.10 per tonne, has helped reduce the volume of waste going to landfill. A knock-on effect, however, has been to create an underground industry where shady characters are contracted to dispose of waste at knock-down prices. This is the material which finds its way into gateways, laybys, farm tracks and woodland.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from fly tipping, your local authority will not be interested if it’s on private land. The problem is yours to remedy. Beyond the financial cost, fly tipping can also be a hazard to both animal and human health. Whilst clearing foul, potentially medical waste, individuals risk contracting hepatitis or worse.
Like most rural crime, the best defence is to be vigilant, to communicate with neighbours and report suspicious vehicles to the authorities.
In the event you wake one morning to find the midnight cowboys have paid you a visit, if the problem is severe, it is worth consulting with your insurance broker. Most farm combined policies will cover the cost of removal and disposal, less an excess. In the event of a major fly tipping incident you could be very glad the cover is in place.