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Local authorities are responsible for investigating and clearing small scale fly-tipping on public land. The Environment Agency, part of DEFRA, are supposed to investigate larger scale fly-tipping (more than a lorry load of waste).

However they only prosecuted one case in 2018. How does DEFRA disguise these embarrassing facts?

Firstly they refer not to fly-tipping “prosecutions” carried out by the EA but to “incidents dealt with” i.e. incidents logged.

Secondly they exclude EA activities from the official “Fly-tipping statistics for England”

Thirdly, when describing the EA’s activities they refer to “illegal dumping” rather than “fly-tipping” so that they can count in illegal dumping within waste sites into their stats.

The police have little interest. The local authority is happy to say ‘it’s on your land, you deal with it’ and the Environment Agency says ‘we haven’t any money,”

Farmer quoted by Farmers Weekly

Key sources

House of Commons Briefing Paper
DEFRA Guidance

Fly-tipping: council responsibilities DEFRA Guidance 2016.This states that “… you need to contact the Environment Agency if the illegally dumped waste is:

  • more than 20 tonnes (about 20 cubic metres),
  • more than 5 cubic metres of fibrous asbestos or 75 litres of potentially hazardous waste in drums or containers
  • possibly linked to criminal business activity or organised crime
House of Commons Debates 2017 & 2018

In the House of Commons Debate 21st Nov 2017 – Fly-tipping in Rural Areas

DEFRA minister Therese Coffey said that “The number of incidents of large scale flytipping dealt with last year by the Environment Agency also increased to more than 200″.

Neil Parish, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said that “It is not only about catching the perpetrators, either through the local authority or the Environment Agency; it is also about making sure that they are prosecuted and that the fines are very heavy

The impression was thus given that the EA were actively prosecuting large scale fly-tippers – nothing was and still is further from the truth

In a further debate on fly-tipping on 17th April 2018 astonishingly no mention was made of the number of prosecutions made by the EA for fly-tipping.

DEFRA – Fly-tipping statistics for England – Updated Nov 2019 provides a link to a report summarising actions taken by local government which in turn gives a link to ENV24 – Fly tipping incidents and actions taken in England. From this you can download copious information about fly-tipping incidents and actions taken by each council.

In total councils made 2,397 prosecutions for fly-tipping in 2018/19

The report goes on to say that “Details of the 204 incidents of large-scale, illegal dumping dealt with by the Environment Agency in 2018/19 are published separately by the Environment Agency and are available here

[SPIN ALERT – “large scale dumping” includes offences committed within the bounds of waste storage and waste transfer sites as well a “fly-tipping”. The two terms are not synonymous].

This leads you on to the EA publication “Regulating for people, the environment and growth, 2018“. This refers to the 204 incidents. It also says that as a result of its 113 prosecutions in 2018 the courts fined businesses and individuals almost £2.8 million for environmental offences.

BUT how many of these prosecutions were for illegal dumping on waste sites and how many were for fly-tipping. The answer (see My Freedom of Information requests – 2019 below) it turns out was 11 and 1 respectively.

Councils carried out 2,397 and the EA just 1 prosecution for fly-tipping in 2018/19.

This was confirmed in a subsequent enquiry in 2020 which showed that for the two year period July 2018 – June 2019 the Environment Agency carried out just ONE prosecution for fly-tipping

My Freedom of Information requests


I put in a Freedom of Information request on 20th January 2017 to the EA for the number of prosecutions they made for fly-tipping for the period Jan 1 2006 – 31st Dec 2015. The figure given, for example, for 2105 was 26

They qualified this however by saying “The term “fly-tipping” is not used on our prosecutions database, so the range of offences identified this way may be somewhat broader than those you may consider to be classed as fly-tipping” and “The items relevant are prosecutions made under s.33 (1) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and reg.38 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 and 2010”.

EPA s33 (1) (a) says a person must not “deposit controlled waste, or knowingly cause or knowingly permit controlled waste  to be deposited in or on any land unless an environmental permit authorising the deposit is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence“. So the 26 prosecutions would have included those committed on waste storage and transfer sites as well for breaches of the permit regulations.

Interestingly they went on to say “In recent years the Environment Agency has concentrated its enforcement of illegal waste activity against more serious offences rather than the activity which is often regarded as fly-tipping”.

So we have no idea how many fly-tipping prosecutions were made in 2015


On 30th November 2017 I put in another FOIA request to the EA asking for an update to my earlier request. I was eventually sent a spreadsheet showing all EPA S33(1) prosecution for 2016 and 2017

They showed 30 prosecutions for 2017 but, on examination and further research, it became apparent that the majority of the prosecutions were for offences related to the mis-management of waste transfer/ treatment / storage sites rather than fly-tipping.

In fact only three were definitely for fly-tipping. Two of these were in effect the same case as two members of the same family were prosecuted for the same incident. Their combined fines were £75,000. In the other case the fine was only £900. There were two other cases where I was not able to determine whether or not they were for fly-tipping. The fines in each case were £850 and £1,600.


I made a further request in October 2019 for breakdown of the 113 prosecutions the EA had made in 2018 by offence including fly-tipping.

In reply they said that they did not use the term “fly-tipping” in their data but identified 12 prosecution for “illegal dumping”. On examination it turned out that 11 of these were for offences committed on waste storage and transfer sites and only 1 was for fly-tipping. The fines and costs were £2,000 and £2,500 respectively.


The Environment Agency corporate scorecard published 13 December 2019 gives in section 3 under “Illegal Waste main contributors” the number fly-tipping incidents handled by the EA as 11 for the two years July 2018 – June 2019.

I put in a request for a breakdown of those cases. Out of the 11 cases there were only 2 prosecutions. One was carried out by Burnley Council to whom the case was handed and one by The Environment Agency. In both cases the vehicle was seized and crushed.

Useful links

E-mail to Permanent Secretary at DEFRA 26th Sept 2018

Example of a prosecution under EPA S33(1)(a) which was not for fly-tipping Further example

All posts on fly-tipping

Office use only Data sources


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