Last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that under new government plans, households will no longer have to pay to get rid of DIY waste in a bid to tackle the surge in fly-tipping that is costing local authorities up to £392 million a year.
Fly-tipping is a big problem, with the number of cases increasing significantly since the start of the pandemic. Under current rules, farmers and landowners are responsible for clearing any fly-tipped waste on their land, and with fly-tipping estimated to affect two-thirds of farmers, the clean up cost is estimated in excess of £50 million per year.
It is very interesting to see the role that technology will be playing in these new plans, as artificial intelligence equipment and automatic number plate recognition cameras are going to be used to identify offenders and provide alerts in real time at known hot-spot locations.
With local authorities dealing with 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents last year, up by 16% from the previous year, some local authorities had already begun to tackle this growing issue. Swindon Borough Council in 2020 were a finalist at the Digital Leaders 100 Awards for ‘AI Innovation of the Year’ for creating a Proof of Concept (PoC) that used object detection and machine learning technology that enabled and streamlined channel-agnostic reporting of fly-tipping and other street issues. Swindon built on this PoC in 2021 as the pandemic took hold and fly-tipping incidents soared. They went on to win ‘Best Public Sector Project’ at the National Technology Awards for ‘Report It’ (you can read the full story and watch a 4 part case study series here).
Swindon also became a finalist at the 2021 DL100 awards for ‘Public Service Innovation of the Year’ when they saw an opportunity to use technology in response to the extra pressure and increasing costs on their Household Waste Recycling Centre brought about during the pandemic – creating the UK’s first fully automated entry system!
It is encouraging to see the government introducing new measures on fly-tipping.
Environment Minister Jo Churchill said:
When it comes to fly-tipping, enough is enough. These appalling incidents cost us £392 million a year and it is time to put a stop to them.
I want to make sure that recycling and the correct disposal of rubbish is free, accessible and easy for householders. No one should be tempted to fly tip or turn to waste criminals and rogue operators.
Furthermore, the funding that we have announced for Local Authorities today will help them trial innovative new projects to put a stop to fly tipping. We will learn from the successes – and replicate them.