The amounts which Northern Ireland’s local councils are forking out every year to clean up after filthy fly-tippers have been revealed.
Ratepayers are being left to pick up hefty bills for clearing up after irresponsible people who dump their waste illegally, often at roadsides or on public land.
Figures obtained by the News Letter reveal that eight local authorities here dealt with a total of almost 10,000 incidents of fly-tipping in the past two years.
According to the latest government figures, Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) staff have cleaned up more than 300 illegal waste sites across Northern Ireland since 2016, at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £500,000.
Those figures don’t reflect the true extent of the illegal dumping problem across the Province, with local councils, and ultimately the ratepayers, having to foot the bill for dealing with the vast majority of incidents reported every year.
While some incidents - those involving larger amounts of waste and potentially hazardous materials - are dealt with by NIEA, most fly-tipping clean-ups are carried out by council staff, adding to local authorities’ street cleaning bills.
While not all councils here keep records of individual fly-tipping incidents and associated clean-up costs, the figures available do show the shocking extent of the problem in many areas.
Statistics obtained from eight local councils (all except Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Mid Ulster and Causeway Coast and Glens) show that between them they dealt with more than 9,800 incidents of fly-tipping over the past two years.
Belfast City Council recorded 4,363 incidents of illegally dumped waste between 2016 and 2018, while Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council dealt with 1,604 reports during the same period.
Mid and East Antrim Council recorded 705 incidents, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council responded to 611 complaints and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said it has dealt with approximately 640 incidents over the two-year period.
Derry City and Strabane District Council revealed that it deals with an average of 300 cases of “indiscriminate dumping” each year.
While some councils said the cost of cleaning up illegally dumped waste is subsumed into their overall street cleansing budgets, others were able to provide exact figures, revealing just how costly the problem really is.
Several local councils were able to provide exact figures for the cost of cleaning up fly-tipped waste, giving an indication of the extent of the problem.
Over the past two years, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council forked out £40,992 cleaning up 390 tonnes of illegally dumped materials, while Mid and East Antrim Council cleared just over 35 tonnes at a cost of £17,980.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council revealed that since September 2016 the cost of fly-tipping to the council has been £33,021.
Derry City and Strabane District Council’s most recent figures, for 2015 – 2017, show that the cost of clearing up refuse dumped illegally totalled £21,995, and Mid Ulster Council spent £4,685 on the collection of fly-tipped rubbish in 2017/18.
A spokesperson for Fermanagh and Omagh Council said the total cost for cleaning up all dumping, littering and fly-tipping across the district in 2017/18 was approximately £1.6 million.
The NIEA describes fly-tipping as “a grotesque blight on our landscape” and has appealed for everyone to play their part in tackling the problem.