Tipping Point – It is time to act.

Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of waste, and can vary in scale significantly from a single bin bag of waste to large volumes of waste dumped from trucks. Fly-tipping differs from littering in that it involves the removal of waste from premises where it was produced with the deliberate aim of disposing of it unlawfully, or as a result of legitimate outlets not being available.

Fly-tipping poses a threat to humans and wildlife, damages our environment, and spoils our enjoyment of our towns and countryside. Furthermore, I know from my professional work in flood risk management that it can cause real problems when it gets stuck in culverts. In my Ward I often report tipping – with Oxgangs House and Oxgangs Street being regular problem areas.

Tomorrow Edinburgh’s Transport & Environment Committee will consider the 2021 “Waste and Cleansing Services Performance Update“. This report updates the Committee on the Waste and Cleansing Services performance for the first two quarters of 2021/22 On tipping, it says this:

“4.12 Dumping of items seems to reflect a national pattern of illegal behaviour which has been highlighted both by Keep Scotland Beautiful and neighbouring Councils. It’s possible that during the lockdowns people may have been enjoying their local green spaces more, and so are more aware of and more likely to report existing issues, but it is also possible that there is simply a growing national problem with fly-tipping and dumping.”

This implies there has been a rise in tipping reports (not quantified in the report), and this is Covid related. The pre-summer “Coalition Commitment” report, however, notes that there have been year-on-year rises since 2017:

When I raised this with the Council, I received this response:

Certainly recent increases can be attributed to the impact of COVID and I think this has been quite widely reported in national publications. However, as your data shows, we have seen also a big jump from 2017 to 2018. There are a few contributing factors to this I would suggest:

  1. Improvements in online reporting which makes it easier for residents to tell us about issues
  2. A bit of an increase in proactive reporting. This is particularly relevant in the SW locality where Street Enforcement (formerly Env Wardens) were actively logging items to be lifted.
  3. The categorisation of what we capture as being dumped or fly tipped. For us this will include black bags left next to a communal bin for example. Given the number of communal bins we have throughout the City this will form a large proportion.

In terms of where the current hotspots are and how things may improve in the future, I received this response:

The Communal bin project proposes an increase in the frequency of collection from, in many cases, a twice per week collection to an every other day collection. This should relieve some of the pressure on colleagues in street cleansing who, outside of collection days, will assist in collecting any excess. Alongside the increase in frequency it will also be important to get the comms right. Looking at a recent heat map for dumping and fly tipping enquiries there is quite a high level of correlation to areas served by communal bins. That’s one issue we’ve highlighted through the communal bin project that this is an opportunity to properly engage with people about the responsible way to manage their waste. It’s not something that’s been done recently in my memory.

I welcome the fact that there is potential for progress to be made with Edinburgh’s tipping problem in the near future. I’m still disappointed, however, that the original report did not contain a fuller assessment of the problem or outline the potential solutions. I’m grateful, therefore, that the Transport & Environment Vice-Convener/Convener agreed to amend the report as follows to ensure the issue is dealt with seriously:

  1. Notes that tipping and dumping in Edinburgh has increased year on-year since 2017, and that this selfish and anti-social behaviour blights many communities, as it does in local authority areas across Scotland.
  2. Notes that dealing with tipping and dumping consumes significant council resources, and that this money could be better invested elsewhere.
  3. Requests a report within three cycles which details the extent of the problem, identifies hotspots and makes clear what options are available to deal with it, including the bulky household uplift service.

I’m disappointed that this follow-up report is going to take several months to be published, and that it will not explicitly offer free uplift of bulky items (a manifesto commitment of mine), but I think this is a useful starting point.

One thought on “Tipping Point – It is time to act.

  1. Dear Dr Scott Arthur

    I have seen your article on fly-tipping which has led me to tell you about a shopping trolley that someone has dumped in Burdiehouse Burn under the bridge on the pathway that runs between Southhouse Estate and the bus stop on the main road into Straiton.

    Perhaps you could pass this on to the powers that be for it to be removed as it is really blocking the waterflow in the burn and could trap creatures or large items of other rubbish, as well as being unsightly. Alternatively could you please advise me who else I should contact.

    I very much appreciate how active you are in this area.

    Yours sincerely

    Jill Hudson 4 Greenwell Wynd EH17 8GH



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