East Sussex councillors have been told there is no ‘absolute link’ between the between the introduction of charges at rubbish tips and a rise in flytipping.
On Friday (26th March) representatives of Hastings, Rother and Wealden councils met to discuss the running of the East Sussex joint waste contract.
During the meeting, officers told the committee that there was no ‘absolute link’ between the introduction of charges at the county’s Household Waste and Recycling Sites (HWRS) and the rise in flytipping incidents in the county.
The comments came in response to a question from Rother councillor Susan Prochak as members discussed efforts to reduce littering within the county.
Cllr Prochak said:
The flytipping is equally shocking. We’ve had lorry loads blocking [the road]. They just dump it in the middle of the lane and block the road.
Why is this happening? Is it to do with the household waste sites changing their rules?Cllr Prochak, Rother District Council
At previous meetings of the partnership, officers had reported seeing an increase in flytipping incidents since East Sussex County Council introduced charges for some forms of non-household waste at its sites in 2018.
Officers have always been cautious about drawing a direct link between the two, however, saying more information would be needed to do so, particularly as the sorts of waste dumped were not necessarily those affected by the introduction of charges.
Speaking at the meeting contract manager Madeleine Gorman said the matter had been looked into, but no direct link could be found:
The waste strategy group has considered [whether] there is a direct link between increased levels of flyipping, the types of waste deposited in that flytipping and stricter controls or availability of household waste and recycling sites.
The honest truth from my position is that I have never seen an absolute link that can be evidenced. But of course we can all speculate and say that maybe that is definitely the answer.
[Someone may say] ‘I went to the HWRS and couldn’t get in; it wasn’t open or they didn’t let me in and therefore I was tempted to inappropriately dump my waste’. But genuinely that is a level of speculation.Madeleine Gorman, Waste Partnership Manager for East Sussex Joint Waste Partnership
The point was taken further by Simon Crook, national operations manager with the councils’ waste contractor Biffa:
There isn’t hard and fast information available. What we are seeing is this isn’t an East Sussex phenomenon; we are seeing it up and down the country.
I’m a bit with Madeline, in that I don’t think it is particularly linked to the HWRSs. What we have seen – and again this is speculative – is a lot of people are spending a lot of money on developing their gardens and their properties.
That has increased demand on local builders and I think has led to a bit of an upsurge in people who are prepared to do this work but are not legitimate operators.
That is perhaps another source because a lot of these are significant loads which would not go through the HWRS in any case.Simon Crook, Operations Director at Biffa Municipal Ltd
A similar response was also given by Justin Foster, of East Sussex County Council’s waste service. He did, however, say that the closure of tips during the first few weeks of the first coronavirus lockdown may have ‘an influence’ on flytipping as the service was unavailable during this period.
But he added the service had been stepped up over the following months and was largely back to normal, albeit with covid restrictions.
He said: “
In terms of the direct impact on flytipping now, I argue it is a little unfair to point the finger at the Household Waste Sites. That example that was provided right at the beginning was industrial waste; it’s lorry loads. We don’t accept lorry loads of waste at our sites, we accept boot loads from our residents.
I think it is difficult to get to bottom of it, but I would say there are lots of other things that would apply. At the start of lockdown we had bulky waste services suspended we had garden waste services suspended, we had flytipping collected from private land by some districts so that influences the figures as well.
There is lots of stuff going on and I think there is some kind of behavioural thing going on as well, because I think we have good services back on, but there still seems to be this increased level of flytipping, which we will continue to look at. But I don’t think any of us have gotten to the bottom of why that continues to be elevated.Justin Foster, Waste Team Manager at East Sussex County Council