Rural businesses are putting themselves at risk of waste crime, says new research

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

Agricultural businesses and rural land owners throughout the UK are bearing the brunt of waste crime with almost a third (32%) reported to be suffering incidents of fly-tipping on their land. A new survey commissioned by ‘right Waste, right Place’ shows the number of those falling victim in the last three years rose to 43% in some areas such as London and the South East, with owners turning to councils for help or being forced to deal with the fallout themselves. The clean-up cost has been previously estimated to be £100m-£150m per annum by the Country Life and Business Association.

The research, based on telephone interviews with over 500 rural businesses, is said to show the fundamental problem is to do with lack of understanding with many leaving themselves open to fines, prosecution and imprisonment due to lack of awareness of their obligations under ‘Duty of Care’ law. Farmers and landowners can also be the victim of illegal waste operators using their land to store waste which is subsequently abandoned, leaving landowners with costly clean-up bills.

Depending on the region of the research, up to 100% of survey respondents believed they were compliant with ‘Duty of Care’ law, whereas previous research carried out by ‘right Waste, right Place’ reveals that only half are likely to be compliant. The campaign said that this lack of understanding of ‘Duty of Care’ is directly contributing to waste being illegally dumped in rural areas.

In response to these statistics, ‘right Waste, right Place’ has launched sector-focused material aimed at increasing awareness among agriculture and land management businesses. This includes an ‘Agriculture Simple Guide to Duty of Care’ published online alongside other reference guides including case studies; Need to Know cards; and a programme of events including showcases at agricultural fairs across the country.

Sam Corp, head of regulation at the ESA, said: “Our survey shows that the effects of people not doing the right thing with their waste are very real for agricultural businesses. Almost a third told us they had experienced fly-tipping on their land, which is not only a costly inconvenience - it can be a major health hazard to people, livestock and livelihoods.

“However it is clear that despite their vulnerability many businesses are running the risk of inadvertently contributing to waste crime by believing they are complying with the legislation when the evidence is there that they are not. We believe this is a particular issue where the waste is handed from one party to another.

“We’d urge businesses to join in alliance with the ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign to tackle this issue together. We can provide practical support through easy-to-understand reference guides and are keen to work in partnership with businesses to establish best practices and raise awareness of this issue throughout the industry.”

The campaign is now calling on agricultural industries, associations, and local authorities in rural areas to sign-up to and support the campaign.

"In so doing, they can make use of the free materials and information resources provided. Thereby they can help their customers and members to comply with the law as well as reduce the risk of themselves becoming a victim of waste crime," added ESA's head of regulation.

Dr Colin Church, chief executive of CIWM, stated: “We know that many agricultural businesses are actively trying to do the right thing with their waste, taking steps to make sure it doesn’t fall into the hands of waste criminals. However our latest research shows that rural communities are still suffering from the results of bad practice.

“The unrelenting nature of rural business means constant demands on the time of what are often small enterprises with few staff. While this can be tough, being efficient yet diligent in the way waste is dealt with can lead to savings, environmental benefits and opportunities to diversify. However the key is to fully understand the legislation and it appears that many do not.

“The ‘right Waste, right Place’ campaign is here to help businesses achieve their potential when it comes to waste practices and we really want to bring together the industry to tackle the issues in partnership.”

Local businesses can find guides, Need to Know cards, case studies and videos online at or by emailing

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