Asking for recommendations for a man with a van on Facebook? Be careful – you could end up before the courts. We spoke to environment bosses about what you should do to make sure your rubbish isn’t being dumped.
Shopping online for a bargain is something we’re all becoming accustomed to, even the most technophobic amongst us.
But asking for recommendations when you need rubbish taking away by a man in a van could prove to be rather tricky – and illegal.
That’s because the likes of Facebook and other social media sites are being used by unscrupulous and unregistered workmen to undercut legitimate firms and tout for business, according to environmental bosses in the county.
And the obligation to make sure all the paperwork is indeed in order remains on the customer, even if they don’t always realise it.
Sarah Drewery, senior officer at the Environment Agency, said Facebook and other sites are often used by legitimate firms who are registered to remove waste – but warned that if a deal looks too good to be true, residents should ‘be suspicious’.
She said: “We believe a lot of people who are quite dodgy and not registered are probably using these sorts of means and undercutting people.
“If they are offering to take your waste for less than the going rate, they might be involved in illegal actions.
“People should check up on these carriers – it’s their responsibility to check, it’s a legal obligation. If their waste is fly-tipped, and we can trace it back, they can have action taken against them as well as the carrier.”
In 2014/15, there were 27,688 reports of dumped rubbish in Lancashire. Last year, that increased to 30,676, though an increase in dash-cams, people carrying camera-phones, and use of CCTV may be some of the reasons, Sarah added.
If they are offering to take your waste for less than the going rate, they might be involved in illegal actions.
“It’s not necessarily bad that the number of incidents is increasing,” she said.
“Dash-cams have been very handy in obtaining convictions.”
In Preston, CCTV footage was released in March of two men unloading rubbish from a white Ford Transit van in the access road to Sharples Yard, at Fishwick Bottoms.
They dumped a pile of unwanted furniture and rubbish before driving off.
Preston City Council yesterday said the cash spent on flytipping and the street cleaning service amounted to almost £1.8m in 2016/17, with 774 incidents reported and 3,040 lots of rubbish removed.
Environment boss Coun Robert Boswell said: “The amount that we spend on clearing fly-tipping each year is up to £500,000.
“There are lots of options for removing household items legally including booking our bulky item collection service, hiring a skip or our team to clear a garden or area of land.
“Not everyone realises it’s the responsibility of the individual or business owner to ensure their waste is disposed of in a legal manner, so we try to raise awareness and educate around this important issue.”
He continued: “When someone chooses fly-tipping to dispose of their waste, it has an impact on wildlife, the environment and the whole community. Not only the cost of clearing up the waste to council tax payers, but also the cost to land owners and residents who come across the debris.
In recent months, an operation has been conducted across Lancashire, with waste sites and scrap metal dealers visited to ensure their paperwork is up to scratch.
“We have found quite a few issues to follow up, and we have found some unregistered waste carriers and action is being taken,” Sarah added.
Some have also been handed fixed penalty notices, she said.
“We are trying to get across a message to everybody in Lancashire that they all have a duty of care to ensure waste is not getting illegally tipped.”
Anybody who transports or carries waste for profit must be registered, and hauliers have a responsibility to check the site they are taking waste to has a permit.
Around 250 illegal waste sites were investigated between 2015 and 2016.
Carriers must also keep records, and the Lancashire Environmental Crime Forum has urged firms to make sure their loads are legal.
John Neville, environment officer from the Environment Agency, said: “Waste crime is a blight on local communities, can cause serious pollution, and undercut legitimate businesses.
“Whether you are a business, local council, or householder in Lancashire, you must make sure you know where your waste goes so it doesn’t end up in the hands of operators who break the law.
“We know that many people may be unclear about what their duty of care is, but we’re here to advise and support so you can avoid heavy fines, prosecutions, and even imprisonment.”
Coun Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council and chair of the Lancashire Waste Partnership, said: “Fly-tipping is a blight on our towns, cities, and countryside, and all councils in Lancashire work closely together to coordinate actions to tackle it.
“Fly-tipping is illegal and a purely selfish act, and it is not acceptable that the tax payer should bear the cost of clearing up the rubbish that is someone else’s legal responsibility to deal with properly.”
And Supt Julian Platt, from Lancashire Police, said: “This conduct is not only unsightly, but it leaves our communities unsafe.
“We all have a part to play in being vigilant, reporting fly-tipping, and taking a stand against this crime.
“As public services shrink and the costs around waste disposal increase, we need to make sure we do not see any increase in this activity.”