Organised criminals dumping lorry-loads of rubbish on Yorkshire's roadsides are on the rise - and costing taxpayers nearly half a million each year.
Data reveals that since 2012 there have been more than 28,000 major incidents of fly-tipping in Yorkshire, which councils have had to report to the Environment Agency.
The figure has risen by 150 per cent in eight years, with police and environmental groups blaming the trend on organised criminals and gangs posing as legitimate waste removal services who dump rubbish at roadsides.
In January 2019, two men were sentenced at Kirklees Magistrates' Court in Huddersfield for dumping piles of waste including sofas and mattresses at roadsides in local beauty spots after operating a seemingly-legitimate removals service.
The van they used to pick up and dump tonnes of rubbish was subsequently seized and crushed.
There are an average of 4,007 such incidents each year in Yorkshire & the Humber, costing the region's taxpayers £482,813.28 annually, with very few resulting in prosecutions.
The total bill accosted to the region between 2012 and 2019 was £6.85m.
Doncaster has been highlighted as one of the region's worst areas for major fly-tipping, with figures revealing there are 24 such incidents per 10,000 people which have, in total, cost nearly £1.3m to clear up since 2012.
Leeds, meanwhile, is England's third worst-offending location, with lorry-loads of waste burning a £2.36m hole in taxpayers' pockets over the past eight years.
North Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan, who is chair of the National Rural Crime Network, said these large-scale fly-tipping incidents stemmed from "serious and organised criminals" who were evading justice.
She said: "Fly-tipping is a scourge on rural communities and is growing in both scale and severity.
"Not only does it make people feel less safe and blight our communities, but the financial cost of dealing with the waste is significant.
"Most importantly though, it is generally thought larger scale fly-tipping stems from serious and organised criminals, and so failing to deal with those offenders adequately has knock-on consequences."
A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union said: "People may associate fly-tipping with the odd mattress or fridge dumped in the countryside but it has grown into large, organised crime.
"You get a huge amount of waste dumped in the fields but also bogus waste companies which will try to rent farm buildings or land or dump lorry-loads or rubbish here."
Doncaster Council's Environment Member, Coun Chris McGuinness, said the authority carried out "unannounced visits to businesses" to ensure waste is being disposed of legally and responsibly.
He said: “Working together with our partners in the Police and Environment Agency by use of ‘stop and search’ events to ensure that persons transporting waste have the correct licences, not only may result in enforcement action but also educates parties of waste responsibilities.
“The Enforcement team have invested in equipment to assist in an intelligence led approach to enforcement. This robust style of investigation is key to ensuring that fly-tippers are caught and punished appropriately."
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said it took the issue of waste crime "very seriously" and has "a strong recent record of educating residents about the correct ways to dispose of waste" and of "prosecuting those who continue to handle and dump waste illegally and for profit".
The spokeswoman added: "In April 2019 we launched the Duty of Care campaign which emphasises to residents the need to check that if a man with a van or scrap dealer is taking away their waste that they are a licensed waste carrier."