Each ratepayer hit with £46 bill for fly-tipping

Each ratepayer hit with £46 bill for fly-tipping

31 March 2021

RATEPAYERS were charged £46 each for keeping the district’s streets litter free in 2019/20, it has been revealed.

The cost is published in Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful’s cleaner neighbourhoods report which was published last week and confirmed that province-wide, littering and dog fouling increased during the pandemic.

The anti-litter charity — which surveyed 900 areas across Northern Ireland last summer —  discovered twice as much as dog fouling recorded the previous year, with the amount of dumped litter also on the increase.

Keep NI Beautiful also found discarded PPE items in 30 of the areas it surveyed, estimating that at any one time there could be more than 7,000 gloves and masks lying around. 

The sight of old rubber gloves and face masks are also a regular feature across the district, with many public spaces found to be generally less clean.

Dr Ian Humphreys, the head of Keep NI Beautiful, said everyone must play their part to tackle the problem.

“We have a growing litter problem that we need to face up to as a community,” he said. “The cost to our environment and public purse is too great a burden for us to bear.

“The pandemic has seen us care for the vulnerable in society. It is now time we extended that care for our vulnerable environment.”

The charity survey also reveals that the annual spend of the province’s 11 local authorities on street cleaning decreased to £31m in 2019/20.

Province-wide, almost 3,000 fixed penalty notices were issued for littering and just over 300 for dog fouling in all 11 areas. The figures for the Newry, Mourne and Down area were 74 and nine respectively.

Elsewhere, the charity survey found that rural roads are disproportionately affected by litter, with much of it tossed out car windows which mostly included take-way food packaging, sweet papers and drinks bottles, with cigarette butts continuing to be the most common item littered on streets and public spaces.

Fly-tipping is another issue highlighted in the report with Keep NI pointing to anecdotal accounts of an increase in this activity across all council areas.

Two weeks ago, the Recorder revealed that there had been a 75% increase in the number of reported fly-tipping incidents across the Newry, Mourne and Down area last year compared to the previous 12 months.

A total of 717 fly-tipping incidents were reported in 2020 compared to 409 in 2019 and between 2018 and 2020 over 1,500 fly tipping incidents were reported to the local authority. During the first two months of this year, council officials confirmed that they had received reports of 121 fly-tipping incidents across the district.

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic between March and December last year, there were 571 illegal dumping incidents, compared to 288 over the same period in 2019. The average number of fly tipping incidents across the district rose from 10 each week to 23 for a period last year, before dipping back to 15.

In a bid to reduce littering and dog fouling, Keep NI Beautiful believes that tackling litter pollution at source is the best solution with the focus on changing mind-sets and helping people be more conscious about waste.

Reducing singular use plastics is also suggested to discourage a ‘throwaway society’ with councils encouraged to support and get involved with the work of community groups tackling the litter issue.

In terms of legislation, Keep NI has called for a litter strategy, insisting that a joined-up approach is essential to tackle the cause of litter, with the focus on education, enforcement, public engagement, partnership working and the sharing of resources.

The charity says the courts also have a role to play, calling for fines that are issued not to be smaller than the fixed penalties imposed by councils.

It is also urging all local authorities to adopt a joined up approach to ensure that the best practices of enforcement on littering and dog fouling issues. Keep NI Beautiful said this is important to rule out any ambiguity in relation to the treatment of offenders.