22 September 2020

A large quantity of branches, wood and garden cuttings tipped near Plymouth

The Environment Agency and its partners are concerned about a seasonal trend of green waste fly-tipped near Plymouth and urge people not to be tricked by doorstep conmen into taking away green waste.

Households in Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon are being asked to quiz people knocking on their doors and offering to take their rubbish away.

Waste carriers, like other licensed trades, are required to register and operate in line with a set of rules that protect the environment and their customers. These rules include disposing of waste in the right place, storing it safely and keeping accurate records of transfer and disposal.

If these traders don't have a waste carriers' licence, there is no guarantee rubbish will go to an authorised site. Instead, it could end up dumped on the side of the road or burned in a field, causing environmental damage. And the person who hired the unregistered trader could face a criminal charge.

Kevin Baker of the Environment Agency said: "We want people to take three steps to check whether the collector has a waste carriers' licence from the Environment Agency: ask where the rubbish will end up, don't pay cash and insist on a receipt, then record the details of the vehicle used to take the rubbish away.

"If people suspect criminal activity, they should report it on our hotline 0800 807060 or anonymously through CrimeStoppers on 0800 555111 and give as much detail as possible. Let's work together to stamp out waste crime and protect on our beautiful countryside."

Alex Roddis from Devon, Somerset & Torbay Trading Standards Service, said: "Unfortunately there are those who will not hesitate to try to take advantage of consumers, particularly the vulnerable or elderly. Often they will call unannounced and use high pressure sales tactics.

"In many cases they will overcharge or perform sub-standard work. In the case of an unlicensed waste carrier, the consumer could additionally be held liable for having the waste disposed of illegally.

"If you are looking for a tradesman to do work for you we recommend getting a range of quotes, and checking their references and credentials, including whether they are members of a legitimate trader approval scheme, such as Buy With Confidence."

Cllr Keith Baldry, South Hams District Council's Executive Member for Environment, said: "It is so very important that you check the credentials of those offering services carefully in all trade areas. People who knock on your door offering to do your garden maintenance or to help dispose of your rubbish, or even the 'man with the van' on your local Facebook page should all have a valid Waste Carriers' Licence.

"If they don't, you have absolutely no guarantee that they will dispose of your waste responsibly and the risk is they could fly tip it. 

"If we can't find the waste offenders to hold them to account, you could personally be fined up to £200 plus clean-up costs instead. We urge you, to take a few minutes to check that anyone you've hired to help, does have the appropriate paperwork."

Cllr Caroline Mott, Lead Member for Environment at West Devon Borough Council, said: "To avoid fly tips within the Borough we need to work together with the Environment Agency and other statutory partners to do our bit to protect our landscape and wildlife.

"These awful fly tips blot our landscape and residents need to ensure that their waste doesn't fall into the wrong hands of contractors who are out to make quick money.  It's our responsibility to check how legitimate waste collectors are, by either checking the Environment Agency's website or by checking Waste Carriers' Licences on the doorstep, to make sure waste is properly disposed of."

All householders have a duty of care to ensure their waste is disposed of legally. Failing to meet the duty of care means that people could be held responsible if their waste is fly-tipped or otherwise illegally disposed of. If this happens and they have not met their duty of care, they could be fined up to £400. Before hiring someone to remove waste, householders should check their credentials online here.