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Don’t let your festive clear out turn into fly-tipping

Date published: 22 December 2023


Householders across Scotland are being reminded not to let their festive clear outs add to waste crime by inadvertently giving their waste to criminals.

From unregistered individuals with a van advertising on social media, to serious and organised crime gangs, criminals see waste as a money-making enterprise and Scots could be unknowingly adding to the problem.  

The landfill tax for household waste is currently £102.10 per tonne (for standard rate), and legitimate operators need to pay for permits and infrastructure, amongst other overheads, to operate environmentally sound sites that are compliant with regulations.

Waste dumped illegally in laybys, rural locations or holes in the ground instead of being recycled or disposed of in the correct manner means criminals are avoiding having to pay the costs a legal operator has to. Instead, the cost to clean-up abandoned waste is usually left to local authorities or landowners.  

Additionally, waste dumped or burned means the opportunity for recycling or re-use of valuable materials could be lost.

Out of sight not out of mind 

Criminals are resourceful, inventive and will find new ways to break the law – especially with a cash incentive. This includes amongst others - flytipping, burying waste in fields, burning of waste, cramming it into warehouses and even 40ft old HGV trailers.

Jennifer Shearer, SEPA’s Head of Enforcement said: 

“Illegal operators often hide what they plan to do with waste they collect, which can lead to fly-tipping in communities or large-scale disposal on private land. The first line of defence is stopping criminals getting their hands on waste in the first place.

“Services that sound too good to be true often are - and could lead to your waste being illegally fly-tipped. If you’re planning a clear out, you can help tackle waste crime by refusing to engage the services of people that are not authorised.

“Remember, if they dispose of it illegally and we can trace the waste back to you – you can be held to account and prosecuted or fined as well. A legitimate operator should be able to tell you their SEPA waste carrier licence number and the exact location your waste will be taken to. If they won’t provide those two pieces of information don’t give them your waste.”

Don’t support waste crime 

Top four Dos and Don’ts of Household Waste Disposal 

  • DO use common sense. If you are approached out of the blue with an offer to dispose of your waste so quickly and cheaply it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  
  • DON’T entrust your waste to someone if they are unable to tell you basic information like their waste carrier registration number and the named site they are taking the waste to.  
  • DO take responsibility for who you give waste to – if illegally disposed of waste is traced back to you then you could face enforcement action too. 
  • DO check that the company you are thinking of hiring to remove your waste is registered with SEPA .

Landowners must be alert to the risk of their land or premises being used for illegal waste deposits and trailer or vehicle owners should also be aware of the risk of theft for use in illegal waste disposal activities.  

Report suspicious sites and behaviours to SEPA 24 hours a day, seven days a week through our pollution hotline online or by calling 0800 80 70 60.  


Notes to editor

Illegal waste disposal and fly tipping is a serious offence with significant consequences and those caught risk a criminal conviction and a fine of up to £40,000 and/or imprisonment. Check the company you are thinking of hiring to remove your waste is registered with SEPA  

  • You can also contact us to check a Waste Carrier Licence number you have been given if you cannot find it online. 
  • Remember that companies that operate in different parts of the UK may be registered with the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales. A registration with SEPA, the EA or NWR is valid in any of these three countries. Your carrier will tell you where they are registered.