Rural businesses and landowners across the UK are putting themselves at risk of waste crime due to a ‘fundamental lack’ of regulatory knowledge.
This was the message from the ‘Right Waste, Right Place’ campaign, which has commissioned a survey into how businesses in the countryside respond to illegal dumping of waste.
Landowners are often faced with expensive clean-up costs when waste is illegally dumped.
The campaign claims that roughly a third of all UK rural landowners and agricultural businesses surveyed had suffered incidents of fly-tipping on their land.
Its survey, which contacted over 500 rural businesses, discovered that the number of those falling victim to the crime in the last three years had risen to 43% in some areas such as London and the South East.
The clean-up cost of illegal waste dumping has previously been estimated at £100 million to £150 million per year by the Country Land and Business Association, with landowners often bearing the costs themselves.
Right Waste, Right Place – a campaign managed by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) – explains that its research suggests a ‘lack of understanding’ among landowners of Duty of Care legislation.
As landowners must take responsibility for any waste placed on their land under the legislation, many leave themselves open to ‘fines, prosecution and imprisonment’.
According to ESA, 100% of respondents believed they were compliant with the Duty of Care legislation despite previous research by the campaign suggesting only half are likely to be following the rules.
In response, the campaign has launched sector-focused material aimed at increasing awareness amongst agriculture and land management businesses.
This includes an ‘Agriculture Simple Guide to Duty of Care’ published online alongside other reference guides including case studies, Need to know cards, and a programme of events including showcases at agricultural fairs across the country.
Sam Corp, Head of Regulation at the ESA, said: “Our survey shows that the effects of people not doing the right thing with their waste are very real for agricultural businesses. Almost a third told us they had experienced fly-tipping on their land, which is not only a costly inconvenience – it can be a significant health hazard to people, livestock and livelihoods.
“However it is clear that despite their vulnerability many businesses are running the risk of inadvertently contributing to waste crime by believing they are complying with the legislation when the evidence is there that they are not. We believe this is a particular issue where the waste is handed from one party to another.”
Dr Colin Church, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, which sponsors the campaign, added: “We know that many agricultural businesses are actively trying to do the right thing with their waste, taking steps to make sure it doesn’t fall into the hands of waste criminals. However, our latest research shows that rural communities are still suffering from the results of bad practice.”