More than 11,000 fly-tipping cases, on average six a day, have blighted the Buckinghamshire countryside in the last five years alone.
The clean up costs payers £500,000 a year in clear-up costs however in the 15 years since the Buckinghamshire County Council and the four district councils launched their ‘Illegal Dumping Costs‘ anti-fly-tipping campaign Waste Enforcement Officer David Rounding and his fellow investigators have successfully prosecuted 665 fly-tippers.
In 2017 alone, the team of five achieved 72 convictions and court-awarded costs recouped more than £75,000 towards the councils’ clean-up and legal costs, but that is only part of the story.
The campaign against fly-tippers has saved Buckinghamshire taxpayers at least £3 million over 15 years because of illegal dumping that was prevented.
Signs at dumping hotspots advertise the surveillance cameras but a succession of fly-tippers still star on screen, and later in court and CCTV accounts for 40 per cent of the team’s convictions.
Eye-witnesses account for another 20 per cent of convictions as sharp-eyed members of the public are equally keen to help catch the criminals spoiling their environment.
‘This means we have eyes and ears county-wide from Akeley to Iver, Stokenchurch to Slapton and Haddenham to Chalfont St Peter. To illustrate the point, some bird watchers sent me some evidence recently, on Twitter, appropriately enough,‘ said David, whose Twitter account @DavidRounding features a rogues’ gallery of snared dumpers.
While nearly two thirds (62%) of fly-tipping convictions are for the act of dumping, the people who produced the waste can be prosecuted too for failing their duty of care if they do not ensure their rubbish is being disposed of legally.
The waste detectives have become experts at finding clues to identify the source of dumped rubbish. Holding a photo of an incriminating shredded document which he painstakingly reconstructed, David said: ‘It took me a long time but we wanted to find that corroborating document and I did find it and I traced where that load came from.‘
David recalls late night raids and dawn swoops with police when known dumpers have been caught red-handed, but it is the sifting of rubbish for clues which he excels at and which brings 40 per cent of convictions.
‘I call it ‘bag-diving’ because I am head-first in a bag most days,‘ he said. A third of the team’s convictions involve local Buckinghamshire householders fly-tipping a black bin bag or more of rubbish.
David said: ‘It’s such a silly mistake because, while we don’t catch everybody, we absolutely do catch plenty and if you are going to get caught you are going to stay caught – with a criminal conviction.‘
The bulk of the fly-tipping is by crooked commercial operators and it’s big business. David said: ‘If they run in 300 loads a month, at £200 a load, it’s an astonishing amount of money.
If I go to a pile of waste, judging by where it is and what it looks like, I can tell you who I suspect. More often than not I am right. They might think the money makes it worth the risk but they can serve up to five years in prison, and we have jailed a few.‘
The total fines and costs for fly-tippers in Buckinghamshire since 2003 already tops £918,000 so, while the dirty devil who will become conviction 666 has probably already had their summons, tomorrow’s illegal dumper could be the one to throw away the millionth pound in court.