ASBESTOS. Syringes. An old sofa. And bag after bag of building rubbish. Take a five-minute journey anywhere round here and you’re likely to come across any of these items, dumped by the side of the road, in laybys and fields, or on public footpaths.
Rubbish is ruining our beautiful Yorkshire countryside. And if the evidence I see before my eyes is anything to go by, what’s known “flytipping” is getting worse. It’s a self-perpetuating practice; if one person does it and gets away with it, others will follow.
Sometimes I wonder if one day there won’t be any verge or hollow left unsullied.
Flytipping is illegal and dangerous, and according to a survey by Keep Britain Tidy, it affects 67 per cent of farmers in England and Wales who have their fields ruined by the practice.
It also affects wildlife, and anyone who is walking, cycling or even driving past. Not just because it unsightly, but because the waste left so casually behind by selfish individuals is often hazardous.
Take the case of drugs paraphernalia my son found in the field opposite us recently. He came in as white as a sheet, carrying a metal container full of used syringes and other items which pointed to only one thing.
He’s 14, so had the sense to bring the case and its contents straight indoors. What if he had been a younger child? Who knows what he might have done with them.
The problem is rubbish is a black hole which no one knows what to do with. We rang the police, but they weren’t interested in collecting the offending case. In the end, we wrapped it in several carrier bags and threw it in the bin. We felt bad, but we didn’t know what else to do.
If it’s hard to report small items such as this, it’s nigh on impossible to tackle bags of rubbish, abandoned furniture and so on. Ask any farmer or landowner about the frustrating process of getting rid of debris left illegally on their land, or the fringes of it. On private land, the onus is usually on the person who owns it to take it to the tip. Unless you’ve dealt with it, you have no idea how time-consuming and costly this can be.
Just speak to the proprietor of a local kennels we know. He wages a constant battle against the pile which is left at the entrance to his premises. As soon as he clears one lot, he gets up in the morning to find something else has been left there.
If the local council can be persuaded to come out to collect the mess, it’s often weeks before they get around to it. And that’s simply because they are overwhelmed with demand; figures from Defra show that England’s local authorities deal with more than 700,000 flytipping incidents a year, and at a cost of at least £36m.
The problem is Keep Britain Tidy can run all the campaigns it likes, but it won’t get through to the perpetrators because they just aren’t listening.
This kind of scum – there isn’t any other word for it – don’t take any notice of laws. If they did, they would think twice about doing it.
The fines for contravening the regulations run into the thousands; if that doesn’t stop them, what will?
All the official guidance says that if you spot someone flytipping you should not approach them directly. I can’t say that I have always followed this to the letter. More than once, I’ve wound the car window down and bawled at some dodgy-looking blokes about to unload a truck.
What you should do, apparently, is to take down the registration number, description of driver and debris and so on and report it immediately to your local council.
What you can also do, as a responsible citizen, is to make sure that you always use a registered waste carrier – with the proper permits – should you need to dispose of any major waste or unwanted items such as furniture.
A lot of illegal rubbish is dumped by unscrupulous firms who take money off homeowners and simply drive off into the woods with it, instead of taking it to the proper facilities.
And what local councils can do for their part is to make it far easier to dispose of rubbish at such facilities. Some of these places are run on such draconian recycling lines that it’s a wonder anyone ever gets in with anything more than a carrier bag full of cardboard. Also, the opening hours are not always user-friendly. I would never, ever condone the illegal practices which are ruining our countryside, but I can see why some people might be driven to flytipping through frustration.
That doesn’t make the problem easier to deal with. However, this doesn’t mean we can ignore it and hope it will go away. I urge everyone who sees illegal flytipping in process, everyone who spots a piece of rubbish ruining the countryside, and everyone who has the power to make a difference to pull together. Only then will we start to stamp out this constant blot on our glorious landscape.