Northern Ireland’s taxpayers have been left to pick up a £500,000 bill for cleaning up more than 300 illegal waste sites over the past two years, it has been revealed.
According to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency‘s latest research, the illegal dumping of waste is the biggest environmental concern for households across the Province.
Derek Williamson, NIEA’s head of enforcement, said collective action is needed to stop illegal dumpers.
“Fly-tipping is a crime and a grotesque blight on our landscape. In the last two years, NIEA alone have cleaned up 306 sites across Northern Ireland at a cost to the taxpayer of over £0.5 million. That amount would be significantly higher if we factored in the amount of money each council spends on clean-ups,” he said.
The latest figures show Newry, Mourne and Down has seen the most incidences (65) of fly-tipping over the past two years, followed by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (53) and Belfast (34).
“It is not an issue we can simply prosecute our way out of. We must inform, educate and motivate people to change their behaviour,” Mr Williamson continued.
“We will not hesitate to prosecute when we have enough evidence, but we also need people to get on-board with us to fight the fly-tippers. So, we have started a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and to explain that everyone has a responsibility when it comes to how their own rubbish is disposed of.”
Everyone from householders to businesses have a responsibility, a duty of care, to make sure their rubbish doesn’t end up being illegally dumped.
“Whether you hire a skip, pay a builder or a ‘man with a van’ to remove your general household waste you must make sure they are licenced to do so,” Mr Williamson explained.
“We are working with partners to tackle this problem as clean-up, investigation and prosecution costs are a significant strain on the public purse.
“It is a stain on our beautiful and unique countryside, causes damage to our environment and wildlife, as well as creating a headache for people who live or work nearby with litter, vermin, pollution and smell. In NIEA we are determined to tackle those waste criminals who wilfully dispose of their waste illegally.
“Everyone can help keep Northern Ireland clean and prevent the harm by reporting fly-tipping incidents.”
Dr Ian Humphreys from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “Thankfully, most people dispose of their rubbish correctly, however, a small number of selfish people are placing a significant burden on our environment and economy.
“We are keen to work with NIEA and local councils to help tackle this problem and develop tangible community pride so that people love where they live and feel responsible for the landscape around them. Our Live Here Love Here campaign is aimed at helping create cleaner and prouder communities and ultimately a better environment for all everyone.
“A high quality environment is something we all benefit from and all organisations, big and small, have an important role to play in helping us all achieve it.”