Farmers Fighting to Feed the Country See Fly-Tipping Spike

Joint statement from NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Zero Waste Scotland

Scotland’s leading rural and environmental organisations have issued a statement in relation to the rise in fly-tipping during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 “Over the past few weeks, we have seen Scotland’s beautiful countryside being blighted even more with people’s junk. Farmers’ fields, laybys and lanes have become hot spots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste.

“At a time when farmers are working around the clock to provide food for the nation and trying to keep their businesses running despite being short staffed, it is heart breaking to see their land being used as a giant tip. Additionally, local authorities have been forced to temporarily reduce or suspend some services due to the crisis, they are prioritising essential services to protect public health, therefore dealing with fly-tipping at this time puts added pressure on this limited resource.

“We are pleading with people not to be selfish. Now is not the time to try and get rid of items following a spring clean or DIY project, we are urging you to keep them at home until recycling centres re-open and charities begin to collect furniture and clothing again. Please don’t be taken in by offers of cheap disposal – that’s likely to lead to others fly-tipping your items. Keeping items on your own property for a few weeks is better than taking part in a criminal act that could have longer term consequences, not to mention a fine of up to £40,000.

“Fly-tipping is illegal, ugly and dangerous. It can be harmful to lambs, calves and other animals and wildlife too. But for farmers and other landowners, it is also costly to clean up. Dealing with litter and fly-tipping costs an eye watering £53 million of public money in Scotland every year, and that’s only in relation to public land. This money could be better spent elsewhere, particularly at this time.

“When litter and fly-tipping occur on private land such as farmers’ fields, it is down to the owner to have it removed – and to foot the bill for doing so. The costs involved are huge. The effects are not all financial either. Fly-tipping takes time to clear responsibly, can block access, and can cause issues around health and safety.

“The public can also help by acting as the eyes and ears of their community - we urge anyone who notices fly-tipping to report it, so it can be dealt with by the appropriate authority. This can be done in a number of ways, including through the online Dumb Dumpers website or reporting directly to the relevant local authority.

“As rural and environmental organisations, we are working together to stop fly-tipping – but we can only do it with the public’s support.”

Notes to Editors

  • Signatories to the joint statement are the following:
    • Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates
    • Andrew McCornick, President, NFUS
    • Alan Dron, Rural Crime Coordinator, Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime 
    • Barry Fisher, Chief Executive, Keep Scotland Beautiful
    • Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland

Case Study – Peter Thomson, soft fruit farmer, Blairgowrie

The CORVID-19 shutdown spike in fly-tipping has hit one Scottish soft fruit farmer hard leaving him to clean up everything from fridge freezers to dirty nappies. Over the past two weekends, Peter Thomson, who grows a range of berries near Blairgowrie has seen two loads of mixed waste dumped in fields, adjacent to the polytunnels housing his fruit crops (see pictures above).

The quantities of waste dumped suggests that a flatbed lorry or tipper van were used.  That mess has included all sorts of general household waste including dirty nappies, old cans and child seats. Larger items included a fridge freezer and remains of either kitchen or bathroom cabinets and a quantity of laminate flooring.

Although Mr Thomson has had two incidents of fly-tipping since shutdown, the problem of waste being fly-tipped on his farm is not new with two similar cases in 2019.

Mr Thomson said: “It all has to be picked up, and I have only two options.

“I can take it to a council waste site, which is closed now due to coronavirus, and for which I need both a SEPA licence to transport waste, and a council permit for business use.

“The other alternative is that I have to hire and pay for a skip to be delivered to the farm, fill it at my own risk and have it collected.
“I have tried to report the recent incidents to the local authority, but the council isn’t answering the phones at this time.  Our local SEPA office is interested in pursuing the case.  In both incidents, we have found envelopes with names and addresses so there is the potential to investigate further and prosecute.  That kind of action needs to be taken or cases like this will just continue to happen with farmers bearing the brunt of time and cost in dealing with them.”

NFU Scotland Policy Advisor Zoe Meldrum added: “There is a responsibility for everyone to play their part in tackling the blight of fly-tipping in the countryside.

“No consideration is given to the health and safety of those left to clear up this mess or what they may be exposed to when that waste could be contaminated or of chemical, surgical or industrial origin.

“Farmers are not waste disposers and shouldn’t have to expose themselves to these health risks, bear the cost of clearance or have the stress and worry about people damaging their land, property or livestock.”  


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 43/20

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