One year on from DIY waste charges - what impact have they had?
PUBLISHED: 07:55 31 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:09 01 April 2019
On the eve of the anniversary of controversial DIY waste charges, it can be revealed more than 140,000 fewer visits have been made to the county's recycling centres since they came in.
Since April 1, 2018, visitors to the county’s tips have been faced with charges for items such as rubble, timber, plasterboard and sheets of glass.
Fears were expressed ahead of the move that it could increase fly-tipping across the county, with many anticipating a newfound reluctance to dispose of waste properly.
However, the latest figures made available by County Hall paint a different picture - particularly compared with the same period the previous year.
In the first six months of the new charges - from April 1 to September 30, 2018 - there were 5,448 reported incidents of fly-tipping across the county. In the same period of 2018 there were 8,757 reports.
However, around the same time as the introduction of the charges, Great Yarmouth Borough Council changed the way it records fly-tipping incidents, which resulted in a lower number being noted down.
Taking the borough out of the equation, there were 4,447 reports between April and September 2017 and 4,604 for this period in 2018.
While the long term impact on fly-tipping remains to be seen, more than 140,000 fewer visits were made to tips in the first six months of the charges than in the equivalent six months of 2017.
Between April and September 2017, the recycling centres were visited 770,339 times. In the first six months of the charges this figure was 624,471 - 145,868 fewer than the year before.
Consequently this also saw a fall in the amount of waste processed at the centres. The 20 centres took in 32,544 tonnes of waste in the first six months of the charges - an 18pc drop from the 45,280 tonnes taken between April and September 2017.
A spokesman for Norfolk Waste Partnership said: “So far in 2018/19, we have seen no increase in the fly-tipping of DIY waste, following the introduction of the charges in April 2018.
“As more than 80pc of fly-tips are items which could have been taken to a recycling centre for free, we’d urge everyone to have a look at what they can take along to their local recycling centre and to carry out a few simple checks before giving their waste to anyone to dispose of.”
Guide to the charges
The charges brought in a year ago related to DIY-related waste - not extending to all household waste.
Frequently fly-tipped items such as household electrics such as television and fridges, items of furniture and recyclables can still be disposed of at the centres free of charge.
The charges introduced are as follows (per 80l sack or single item):
• Unsorted and non recyclable DIY waste - £5
• Flat glass - £5
• Rubble - £3
* Plasterboard - £9 (£15 at Mile Cross)
• Timber - £3
In the first six months of the charges, £198,587.91 was spent by people making use of the recycling centres. These amounts are broken down as follows:
• Landfill waste/commercial - £34,990.33
• Flat glass - £9,051.76
• Rubble - £48,241.76
• Plasterboard - £14,639.76
* Timber - £91,664.66
With VAT excluded, this saw the charges contribute £165,489.92 to the council’s £6.4m recycling budget.
At the end of January, Norfolk County Council - along with the county’s seven districts - launched a campaign against fly-tipping.
The SCRAP fly-tipping campaign, which also involves organisations including the Environment Agency, Norfolk Constabulary and the National Farmer’s Union, was launched to encourage people in the county to correctly dispose of their waste.
James Wilson, chairman of the Norfolk Waste Enforcement Group, said: “Any fly-tipping that contains evidence of where it has come from will be investigated by the local council and those found to be fly-tipping will be prosecuted.
“The campaign reminds householders and businesses that their waste is their responsibility and they could be held responsible if it is found fly-tipped and they haven’t undertaken the right checks by following the SCRAP code.”
This code is as follows:
• Suspect all waste carriers
• Check with the Enviornment Agency on 03708 506 506 that the provide taking away your waste is licensed
• Refuse unexpected offers to have waste taken away
• Ask what will happen to your waste
• Paperwork should be obtained - get a full receipt
‘I find it confusing’
A year on from the charges coming in, it has been argued that confusion still remains over just what they apply to.
Terry Jermy, environmental spokesman for the Labour Group at County Hall, said he is often questioned on the matter by people in his division.
He said: “I think people are very confused by what they can and can’t take to centres for free and that the publicity around it just hasn’t been good enough. Even I find myself checking on the council’s website and am not entirely sure.”
In July, the Labour group tabled a motion at County Hall calling for the charges to be suspended until the issue of fly-tipping was investigated - but it was voted down by the Conservative-led council.
He said: “I think the fly-tipping figures can be quite misleading - as while the number of incidents may not have changed much, in Breckland I have found the actual tonnage of waste tipped seems higher.
“It is certainly much more visible now - years ago you would not see such brazen fly-tipping.
‘An education process’
Liberal Democrat group leader Dan Roper has said the reduction in the number of visits speaks volumes.
It was Mr Roper who in July tabled a motion calling for the charges to be scrapped - though this was voted down.
He said: “From my point of view the number of trips speak for themselves. The question now has to be what is happening to the waste that isn’t going to the tips - is it being fly-tipped or is it going in people’s green bins.
“What struck me is the other day I visited my local centre a few days ago and saw three fly tips within about 500 years of it.”
Mr Roper also felt there still remains confusion over just what can be dropped off for free and what is charged for.
He added; “There is an education process that needs to be done about this going forward.”
Two months on from the charges coming in, a pensioner was caught in an extraordinary stand-off at Hempton Recycling Centre, near Fakenham - after refusing to pay £3 to dump a bamboo blind.
Staff at the centre closed the shutters on Chris Feller until he agreed to pay the charge, a stalemate which lasted around half an hour.
A year on, Mr Feller, now 72, says he is more understanding of the charges but feels it has contributed to fly-tipping in the county.
He said: “I constantly see rubbish dumped in hedges and it does make you wonder whether people are doing it because they don’t want to go to the tip in case they are charged.
“However, I can see the council’s point of view and why the charges were brought in. It’s the people at the top of the government who take the lion’s share and leave local councils in need of finding other ways to raise funds.”
Mr Feller added that he has no hard feelings towards any of the staff at Hempton on that day in June.