AN agricultural expert is warning of the hidden financial and emotional cost of flytipping, after it was revealed that 59,334 flytipping incidents were reported to south west councils in the last 12 months.

According to DEFRA statistics, flytipping incidents increased in 2018/19, with 2,771 more incidents reported than the previous year.

Of the total incidents, 232 took place on agricultural land but James Treverton, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB), warned this figure does not reflect the full scale of the problem for the region’s farmers, as most cases on private land go unreported – with victims left to foot the clean-up bill.

James said: “Flytipping is a scourge on the farming community and their plight is not reflected in these figures as they exclude the majority of private-land incidents.

“Councils spend millions every year on clean-up costs but private land-owners, such as farmers, are suffering in silence with little or no assistance or recourse.

“The burden of dumped rubbish falls squarely with farmers as they are liable for clearing it up at their own expense, or face prosecution. Moving the mess on to public land will not solve the issue, but exacerbate it, which farmers need to be mindful of. In one incident we encountered, a farmer was unwittingly branded a flytipper after falling victim to the crime.

“After finding tyres dumped over his hedge, he moved them on the other side of the hedgerow and informed the authorities. Although the waste was collected, he was slapped with a prosecution order for flytipping. Farmers are already faced with a myriad of difficulties, from economic uncertainty to market volatility, and having to fork out dealing with someone else’s mess just compounds these stresses.”

According to the latest National Rural Crime Network figures, flytipping is now the most common crime experienced by ‘specific rural business owners’, mainly farmers. For victims of flytipping, the average financial impact to the business owner was over £1,000 a time.

Despite the increasing blight of flytipping, James said that a small number of farmers make claims for flytipping, as many have the kit and manpower to deal with such incidents. But he stressed the importance of having sufficient protection for farming businesses, particularly in the case of repeat offences.

He also explained that, although any farmer can fall victim, there are a number of preventative steps farmers can take to deter would-be flytippers from targeting their land.

“Ensure that fields, particularly those by the roadside, are secure, with locked gates where possible, and create physical barriers, such as earth mounds, boulders and tree trunks, around the perimeter so that vehicles cannot gain access,” he said.

“Flytippers do not wish to draw attention to themselves, so ensure good visibility, by cutting back hedges and installing exterior lighting in strategic areas.

“If you witness someone in the act of flytipping, do not approach them as this can pose a safety risk.

“If you fall victim to a flytipping incident, be cautious, as the waste could be potentially hazardous. Thousands of the DEFRA incidents reported this year included asbestos, clinical, and chemical waste – and we have seen claims for asbestos and commercial refrigerator waste, which need specialist treatment, being dumped on farms.

“Secure the waste, so that animals and the public are not exposed to potentially dangerous material, and also to discourage further flytipping. Record as much detail as possible, take photos and report the incident to your local council.

“Finally, and most importantly, make sure that any rubbish dumped on your land is disposed of properly. Only use reputable, registered waste companies to help with disposal, and if you take the waste to a licensed waste site yourself, make sure you are registered as a waste carrier.”

READ MORE: New statistics show “rise of organised criminal fly-tipping activity”