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Disposal of Waste (Advertising and Penalty Provision)

Volume 747: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2024

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in Bill to make provision about the advertising of waste disposal services; to require local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices under section 34 of the Environment Act 1990 in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.

We need a zero-tolerance approach to the criminal elements in our society who are turning our neighbourhoods and rural beauty spots into rubbish tips. No longer should our inner cities, suburbs, towns, villages, and rural lanes be seen as dumping grounds for illegal waste. We need to build on the work we have already done on tackling fly-tipping and putting the tippers out of business.

Shockingly, there are over 1 million incidences fly-tipping every year. Government and local councils spend hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year on cleaning up illegal waste sites across the country. It is a blight that not only tarnishes the beauty of our landscapes but inflicts profound harm on local environments and presents many risks to public health. Fly-tipping ranges from household items to industrial waste. It is discarded at best carelessly, but sometimes very deliberately in our forests, fields and riversides, and even in densely populated urban areas.

First and foremost, let us acknowledge the environmental and human toll of fly-tipping. Toxins and pollutants contaminate the environment, and wildlife suffers as animals are exposed to hazardous materials. Furthermore, fly-tipping poses a significant threat to public health. Dumped waste can contain harmful chemicals and often hazardous materials. These pollutants leach into the environment, contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that sustains us. All of this carries the risk of illness, disease and infection, not just to humans but to domestic animals, pets and wildlife. This is a vicious cycle, and we need to break it.

Fly-tipping also blights neighbourhoods and the urban environment. It drives down property values, discourages investment, and creates an environment for crime. The unsightly mess left behind by fly-tippers creates a sense of neglect and decay, decreasing any sense of local pride and fostering a culture of apathy and resentment. I am sick to death of the mindless idiots who dump their rubbish on Peterborough’s streets. Fly-tipping is seen in both rural and urban areas, and it is simply not fair on hard-working people that their neighbourhoods are constantly the victim of this appalling behaviour. Moreover, the cost of cleaning up illegally dumped waste falls on those taxpayers, diverting resources that could be better spent on essential services and infrastructure.

What can we do about this pervasive problem? Of course, it begins with raising awareness and fostering a sense of accountability. We must educate our communities about the consequences of fly-tipping and instil a collective commitment to responsible waste management. People want to take pride in their areas, but as well as education there must be a much higher degree of deterrence. Local authorities must enforce the existing stringent laws against illegal dumping, impose severe penalties on perpetrators and deter future violations. Furthermore, we must invest in accessible and affordable waste disposal services, providing viable alternatives to illegal dumping. At the same time, we must ensure that these services for disposing waste legally are properly regulated.

If I went on the internet, I would find hundreds of services that would take my rubbish away for me, but how do I know where it is actually going? Who is to say that the company I have paid to dispose of my waste will not just drive five minutes down the road and dump it in a field? The problem is that consumers do not always know who is qualified to do what, often through no fault of their own. They just want their waste taken away as soon as possible. This can lead to non-registered companies operating illegally and dumping household goods.

The Government’s own statistic is that 68% of all those advertising waste disposal are not registered and are therefore trading illegally in newspapers, online and in shop windows. Even political activists fall foul of this. I had a lot of fun when a large number of “Vote Labour” posters appeared on the private land of a business in Peterborough back in 2022, but it portrayed the serious point that this political activist was a victim of the criminality behind those adverts.

At this point, I would like to recognise Martin Montague and Jo Smith of ClearWaste, who are sitting with us in the Gallery today. Martin and Jo have been tireless advocates for action on fly-tipping for over five years, and the fly-tipping app ClearWaste has gathered significant attention and has become a top 10 app. If Members have not got it, take a look. It is one of the simple ways to ensure that you are using a licensed waste removal organisation, and you can also report fly-tipping on it.

My Bill will require the display of a valid waste transfer licence for all waste removal service advertisements up front. This would further significantly limit the avenues for illegal operators and would help people not to unwittingly use illegal operators and unintentionally contribute to the scourge of fly-tipping. The Government have taken significant action over the last few years. Maximum penalties have been increased, and a ban on DIY household waste charges means that households no longer have to pay to get rid of small-scale DIY waste at council recycling centres. Funding has been made available to local authorities for trial projects including CCTV, AI and education, but there is much more to be done. My Bill will help to ensure a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping.

The Government need local authorities to act. I would like to pay tribute to Councillor Ishfaq Hussain, Councillor Bryan Tyler, Councillor Chaz Fenner and Alex Rafiq, who have been amazing champions in Peterborough for strong action on fly-tipping in urban settings, and to Councillor Steve Allen and John Peach, who have done the same in rural areas.

On the issue of councils acting, the second aspect of this Bill would make it mandatory for local authorities to issue fines in cases where the evidence for fly-tipping is clear on both public and private land. There has been great progress in many areas, but it is still far too hit and miss. Scores of local authorities do not prosecute a single case a year. This is unacceptable and we can no longer tolerate town halls turning a blind eye. At the moment, a zero-tolerance approach in one area simply means that a large-scale criminal enterprise can move its operations to a different area. Only a consistent national approach to enforcement will put fly-tippers out of business.

Winning the war on fly-tipping is a daunting challenge, but it is one we cannot afford to ignore. I would like to pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) and for Bury North (James Daly) for their support. This Bill would not be here right now without their unflinching support for these measures to tackle fly-tipping. Through this Bill we will close the loopholes that allow fly-tippers to advertise their criminality online, and we will force local authorities to fine perpetrators on both public and private land. To end this scourge, we need a zero-tolerance approach.

I have been fortunate enough to take two Bills through the House in my time as an MP. The Ballot Secrecy Bill, introduced by my noble Friend Lord Hayward, tackled family voting and those who would attempt to subvert our democratic processes. The Local Government (Pay Accountability) Bill tackles excessive town hall pay and the need for transparency. It has passed its Second Reading. Now, fly-tippers and criminals who dump their rubbish are firmly in my sights and I hope that the Government and all hon. Members will join us in the fight against fly-tipping.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Paul Bristow, Chris Clarkson, Sara Britcliffe, Mr Ranil Jayawardena, Lee Anderson, James Daly, Alexander Stafford, Greg Smith, Jill Mortimer, Dr Caroline Johnson and Danny Kruger present the Bill.

Paul Bristow accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 May, and to be printed (Bill 197).