Cleaning up after fly-tippers cost woodland charity £1m over five years

A charity has been forced to spend more than £1 million clearing up fly-tipping and litter from UK woodlands in the past five years.

The Woodland Trust said the annual bill for clearing up the illegally dumped mess on land it owns and takes care of was £200,000 in 2018 – and over the last five years clean-ups have totalled £1.1 million.

Woodlands are being used for hundreds of incidents of tipping and littering, with waste found ranging from fridge freezers and mattresses to carpeting, the remains of a garden wall and oil drums.

Annual bill for clearing up fly-tipping and litter from UK woodlands
Annual bill for clearing up fly-tipping and litter from UK woodlands

In some of the more bizarre incidents, the trust found a bath and even a shrine with a sheep’s head.

In 2018 there were 1,290 separate fly-tipping and littering incidents, 998 of which occurred in English woodlands, the charity said.

The worst region in England was the north, where the trust had to undertake 576 clean-ups of illegal waste, at a cost of more than £63,900.

Livingston in Scotland had the biggest bill for clearing rubbish, with costs of £14,000 in 2018. As in previous years, a big problem is “green-tipping”, with commercial garden waste dumped in woods.

Fly-tipping has also hit Gorse Covert Mounds near Warrington (Woodland Trust/PA)
Fly-tipping has also hit Gorse Covert Mounds near Warrington (Woodland Trust/PA)

The Woodland Trust warned that while people might think dumping green waste was harmless, the additional nutrients carried by discarded plant material can harm the natural balance of woodland habitat.

Other blackspots last year were Smithills Estate in Bolton where more than £11,000 was spent on clearing up mostly fly-tipping, while just over £8,000 was spent at Hainault, London and almost £6,000 at Windmill Hill, near Runcorn, Cheshire.

Darren Moorcroft, director of estate and woodland outreach, suggested a squeeze on council spending on refuse sites and charges for picking up some kinds of household rubbish could be a factor in fly-tipping.

He said: “Reaching over £1 million spent in the last five years on clearing up mess in our woods is clearly not a milestone to celebrate.

“This money could have helped us plant many trees or protect woods that are in desperate need of help.

“The rubbish also creates an eyesore which affects people’s overall visitor experience.

“Fly-tipping is an illegal activity. Whilst it is a costly affair for us to take offenders through a legal process, we do hold that right and have prosecuted in the past, which can lead to substantial fines.

He added: “Whilst not condoning people’s behaviour in dumping this mess, one contributing fact could be the closure of council refuse sites and extra charges placed on the likes of green bins, certainly when it comes to garden waste mess such as grass clippings.”

He added that illegal tipping cases in Woodland Trust woods were generally isolated and that they remain beautiful places to visit.