Fly-tipping in Scotland: Scourge of litter requires all hands on deck to tackle – Steve Cardownie

Fly-tipping is in the news once again with calls by some councillors in Midlothian and West Lothian for private contractors to be brought in to take enforcement action against offenders.
Fly-tipped rubbish is a widespread and costly problem (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)Fly-tipped rubbish is a widespread and costly problem (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)
Fly-tipped rubbish is a widespread and costly problem (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

These calls have so far been resisted in favour of beefing up the role that councils play in tackling this problem, with the SNP in Midlothian suggesting that the council should invest in more in-house enforcement officers.

There is no doubt that this issue shows no sign of going away and the Scottish government is currently considering raising the statutory penalties in an effort to deter offenders.

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Every year in Scotland there are over 61,000 reported incidents of fly-tipping, and clearing council land of such waste costs the taxpayer an estimated £11 million annually. The current fixed penalty notice for fly-tipping in Scotland is £200, but this illegal activity can also lead to prosecution and a fine of up to £40,000.

Fly-tippers also regularly set fire to their waste and, in the three-week period leading up to bonfire night, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service typically attend around 1,500 fires involving fly-tipped waste, commercial waste, rubbish bins and refuse skips. All told, there are around 8,000 refuse fires each year, the majority of which are deliberate and each one costs the fire service approximately £2,000 to deal with.

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I regularly witness the mess left by fly-tippers at Gypsy Brae and what should be a pleasant walk is blighted by the morons who dump their rubbish in the wooded area adjacent to the path. Mattresses, armchairs, couches, fridges and cookers, there appears to be nothing that they will not dump, leaving it for others to clear up. However this problem is by no means confined to Gypsy Brae and there are a multitude of examples of similar instances throughout the city.

For instance, last year the worst area for fly-tipping in Edinburgh, the Sighthill-Gorgie neighbourhood logged 1,170 requests for dumped items to be removed, making up 12 per cent of all such reports across the city, with Leith Walk coming second, logging 784 requests.

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Rubbish-clearing campaigns have been underway for some time now with Keep Scotland Beautiful and its Clean Up Scotland campaign leading the charge. This independent charity campaigns and educates on a range of local, national and global environment issues affecting quality of life and aims to involve one million people in “making Scotland shine”. It wants to “encourage local people to participate in local clean-ups to remove the litter and mess that blights our landscape”.

It is also asking people to sign a pledge agreeing to responsible everyday action. “This campaign will celebrate, reward and highlight success where these improvements are delivered and in the longer term it aims to change behaviour so that littering becomes as socially unacceptable in future as drink-driving is today.” Further information is available online for those who might consider getting involved.

Zero Waste Scotland also has a useful website where fly-tipping can be reported which they then pass on to the relevant enforcement agency for action to be taken.

Undoubtedly, local authorities have a major role to play in dealing with this issue but the assistance of environmental organisations and charities is still needed.

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