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How to solve fly-tipping at bring sites?

Fly-tipping appears to be on the rise at recycling banks and bring sites.  You don’t have to look far to find a local or national news story identifying a problematic site, or news of a Local Authority or super market closing its site down to avoid the problems and associated costs of managing it.

Fly-tipping is defined as ‘the dumping of waste illegally’.  There are two types of fly-tipping that occur at bring sites.  The first being when recyclable items are not deposited into the appropriate containers and build up in piles next to them.  The second type of fly-tipping is the blatant dumping of bulky items such as furniture and general waste.  In my opinion there is a vast gulf between these two types of fly-tipping and the mindsets of people doing it.

There are a number of different issues thought to be the cause of these problems. One being cuts to public service provision, reducing the resources available to empty recycling banks in a timely fashion.  Another being a reduction in the convenience and availability of Household Waste Recycling Facilities (HWRCs).  Local Authority budget cuts have forced some HWRCs to reduce their opening times and/or restrict the type and quantities of materials they’ll accept.  Many HWRCs are now also being forced to charge for some materials.  As these centres become less convenient and/or costly, people will sadly look for alternatives.

The kind of person that makes an effort to segregate their recyclables and take them to a bring site is unlikely to be the same sort of person willing to throw a sofa into a ditch.  However, when this person finds that they can’t fit their bottles into the glass banks what do they do?  They may think it’s best to leave them next to the container, as at least that way they’ll be picked up and recycled.  Unfortunately, the next person who arrives at the site will now see bags of waste next to containers and may well presume all the containers are full. So rather than driving back home with a boot full of recyclables, they dump their bagged recyclables too and move on. Before long there can be bags of mixed recyclables and waste all over the site and it soon starts to resemble a ‘grot spot’.  At this point the site is considered ‘fair game’ for illegal waste carriers and opportunistic fly-tippers.

In terms of managing this problem, closing a bring site can seem like the simple solution.  It might stop resident complaints and avoid clean up costs, but what are the knock-on effects?  Will these valuable recyclable resources now been thrown away and mixed in with general waste, destined for landfill or incineration?  Conscientious residents may still travel to alternative bring sites, but these sites will now be handling far higher volumes of waste and are more likely to overflow as well. Traffic levels to these sites will also increase and residents will be travelling further to dispose of their waste, hardly an incentive to recycle.

Installing CCTV at problematic sites or sifting through dumped waste to track down the culprits is costly and time consuming.  Prosecutions don’t fix the initial problem or help clean up a fly tipped site, they are also of no use to the well intentioned majority who are looking to responsibly recycle their waste.  CCTV has the tendency to move the problem elsewhere, exacerbating the problem and the costs.  The clean up costs for fly-tipping were estimated to be nearly £50 million in England alone in 2014/15.

Solving the problem of fly-tipping:

The best way to nip most opportunistic fly-tipping in the bud is to ensure that recycling banks don’t overflow in first place.  Effective management of bring sites doesn’t require us to increase our waste budgets or put more collection vehicles on the road though. In the Guide to Bring Site Recycling published by WRAP, they highlight the importance of monitoring site performance, including the benefits of measuring fill levels in order to deliver the best service. By placing remote fill-level sensor technology into recycling banks and bins, big improvements can be made to how efficiently sites are managed, ensuring that recycling banks and bins are emptied before they get the chance to overflow. We already help customers in a number of locations across the globe do this and it also helps operators use their collection fleet more efficiently. The overall result is a reduction of vehicle movements, the elimination of overflow situations and associated clean up costs, and ultimately maintaining bring sites as a valuable service for the community.

If recycling sites don’t overflow, a large percentage of fly-tipping will simply not occur. For those more malicious individuals who are deliberating dumping waste illegally, there are also things that can be done but this is a more complex journey involving multiple strands including enforcement.

The good news is that by actively monitoring waste levels at recycling sites, the majority of the problems can be eliminated whilst improving the level of service. You can see an example of how we’re doing this for one of our customers here.

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About the author:
Rob Bresler
Rob is sustainability professional and Chartered Waste Manager who has been working at the forefront of resource efficiency initiatives and innovations, assisting organisations to implement circular economy strategies.

Key contributors

Bill Gladson is Enevo's Sales Director of North America. Bill has over 30 years experience from both a Waste Hauling and Waste consulting perspective.
Jason Knowles is Enevo's Vendor Relations Manager. Jason has a comprehensive history in the Waste industry in hauling and management capacities. He has a degree in Supply Chain Management.
Rob is sustainability professional and Chartered Waste Manager who has been working at the forefront of resource efficiency initiatives and innovations, assisting organisations to implement circular economy strategies.
Ashley Turberfield is Enevo's Product Marketing Manager. Ashley started his career in the food packaging industry before moving into the technology and IOT industry and is now applying this experience within Enevo.
Andy Crofts, is Enevo’s UK Managing Director and has over 20 years of Local Authority Experience in Waste and Street Cleansing. Clean Britain Gold Award and National Winner 2014.
Geoff Aardsma, is Enevo’s North American Senior Sales Director and has an extensive background in the Waste Management industry, a degree in Biochemistry and a MBA in Sustainable Management