Fly-tipping isn’t just Croydon’s problem

By - Wednesday 2nd May, 2018

Dumping rubbish is an issue across the country

Photo public domain.

It may come as news to many Croydon residents, but fly-tipping is not a problem unique to the borough. In fact, it is a nationwide problem, with leafy hamlets and inner cities alike all falling victim to this unacceptable side of human behaviour.

On a recent visit to my home town, up in the Midlands, fly-tipping was front-page news in the local paper. That isn’t to say that the problem hadn’t been around before – it had, but not within the town itself.

Indeed, if you look at the history of fly-tipping, it seems to have presented first as a rural problem, with both builder and household waste being dumped in out-of-the-way places. This made me wonder if one of the causes of the now-visibly more urban problem might be linked to those historic rural issues.

More of that later.

No council has been able to do very much to prevent this problem

It’s a fact that, in spite of their best efforts, neither Tory nor Labour-led councils have been able to do anything more than firefight the fly-tipping problem, a problem that has become the political football of choice within the borough.

There has been a lot of ‘blamecasting’ taking place on social media, and  it would be naughty of me to suggest that it is being given more prominence with council elections looming – or that, with every seat vital in procuring a majority, some of the less-affluent areas are now apparently more interesting to the political classes. Therefore, I won’t do that!

What I will suggest is that neither Tory nor Labour-led councils have dealt effectively with fly-tipping; probably due to the causes of it being beyond their control.

The problem is spreading throughout the borough

It’s fair to say that while the problem might have started off in the less well-heeled parts of the borough, the signs are that this may be spreading to the more affluent reaches.

What I want to look at are the possible causes of fly-tipping, because unless you understand the cause, curing the problem will be difficult.

Near the top of the list is the rise in the number of properties housing more than the number of people that they were originally designed for. Not surprisingly these properties also show the highest turnaround in inhabitants, and no matter how straightened their circumstances, the new occupants at least want the dignity of being able to sleep on a new, clean mattress.

Nothing wrong with that. But what to do with the ‘old’ one?

Fast turnarounds of occupancy seem to be a factor

I use the term ‘old’ advisedly, because even from the opposite side of the road, it’s pretty obvious that the majority of dumped mattresses are not that old, and they don’t appear to be broken, which again points to a fast turnaround of occupancy.

But the problem doesn’t start and end with mattresses; fly litter comes in many forms, but a common point is that there are definite hotspots in many areas, where large items are routinely dumped.

To this end, the current council’s laudable fast response in removing any rubbish reported is, in my opinion, contributing to the perpetuation of tipping. It’s not fanciful to suggest that people get to know areas where rubbish is removed from frequently, so it becomes custom and practice to fly-tip there in the expectation that the rubbish will be taken away.

A regular fly-tipping hotspot in Broad Green Village. A fast response in removing rubbish only seems to perpetuate the tipping.
Photo author’s own.

The Conservative suggestions that surveillance cameras should be sited at known hotspots is a good one, both to deter and detect. I would hope to see this implemented in the near future.

And this brings me back to a problem that I mentioned earlier, that of rural fly-tipping.

Lack of visible deterrents in rural settings are an obvious factor, and I would suggest that this is now the case ‘in town’, too.

The deterrent of the village ‘Bobby’ is long gone

The village ‘Bobby’ is long gone, and with the reduction in police numbers, that visible urban deterrent is now also fading. Unfortunately this is something that councils of any stripe cannot address. Has this had an effect on the increase in urban fly-tipping?

I’m not for one minute advocating police officers on litter patrols; I’m suggesting that police visibility deters all kinds of criminal activities, and that this seems to have been missed.

The focus, thus far, in respect of lower police numbers has been the increase in knife crime.

Rightly so. It is obviously far more serious than fly-tipping. However, it does make me wonder whether we are seeing some sort of ‘trickle-down’ effect in respect of criminal activities, as a result of reduced police numbers. ‘Trickle-down’, eh? Who was it that first used that phrase?

Paul Dennis

Paul Dennis

An award-winning journalist, Paul has worked on angling titles for much of his career, including 16 years as deputy editor of Angler's Mail and 4 years as editor of Total Sea Fishing magazine. He is a regular freelance contributor for a wide array of non-angling-related titles, author of two books on angling and a widely-followed authority on the subject.

More Posts

  • lizsheppardjourno

    Great to see discussion and thought, not blaming and point-scoring, on this subject.

    I agree with what’s said here. I also think we need to look even deeper.

    Fly-tipping is angry, frustrated and self-destructive behaviour. It speaks not just of poverty and demoralisation, but a deeper social disconnect. It’s about transience and lack of a sense of community. Much good work is being done by activists such as Malcolm Bell of the Friends of Broad Green – one particularly problematic area – to address this.

    More and more, as the writer above points out, the problem is being driven by overcrowding. If an average sized terraced house contains mini-flats (7 or 8 of them) – how many people are living there and how much litter are they generating? No surprise then that wheelie bins lids won’t shut, foxes shred bags and mess spreads everywhere.

    Such an environment also harms people’s mental health. It’s literally depressing. It creates a mood of apathy and hopelessness. The problem then grows even worse.

    I recently had a Facebook discussion with a LibDem candidate for a council seat in Yorkshire who is trying to start a conversation along these lines in her area. It would be great if we could do so here in Croydon.