Fly-tipping is the illegal deposit of waste on land where there is no licence to accept it. UK social distancing measures have been in place since March and with many local authority waste services closed, there has been a surge in fly-tipping incidents on private land.

With around 26,000 tons of waste illegally dumped in Scotland each year, fly-tipping has been an ongoing problem for private landowners, who often bear the cost and effort of removing the waste themselves. In recent weeks, rural groups have reported that fly-tipping incidents have soared as farmers' fields, laybys and lanes have become hotspots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste.

A joint statement from NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Zero Waste Scotland urged people to act responsibly until local authority tips and recycling centres are reopened: "Keeping items on your own property for a few weeks is better than taking part in a criminal act that could have longer term consequences, not to mention a fine of up to £40,000."

The law in Scotland

In Scotland, the main legislation concerning fly-tipping is the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which prohibits the disposal of waste without the necessary permit. The legislation covers household, commercial or industrial waste, banning the dumping of anything from a single rubbish bag to a skip full of waste. People who are caught fly-tipping could face a minimum fixed penalty of £200, or up to a maximum £40,000 fine and 12 months' imprisonment if prosecuted.

What to do if fly-tipping has occurred on your land

The incident should be reported to the relevant local authority and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Reports can also be submitted online to Zero Waste Scotland's Dumb Dumper's Stop Line . It is useful to record the extent of the problem through photographs and note the date, location and type of waste.

Some waste items can be hazardous or contaminated, so be careful before attempting to remove them. Certain types of waste including bulky domestic items may require special uplift or disposal through a licensed waste carrier, which can be found on SEPA's website.

How to prevent fly-tipping happening on your land:

  • Restrict vehicular access to your land by installing gates or physical barriers (strategically placed earth bunds, tree trunks, boulders etc.).
  • Make sure gates are kept closed.
  • Improve visibility so that fly-tippers are not hidden from view (cutting back trees and hedges)
  • Install or improve lighting, if possible.
  • Consider placing appropriate deterrent signage and CCTV cameras.
  • Swiftly clear any waste that is dumped to remove any encouragement for others to add to it.

If an incident does occur, it may be worth checking your insurance policy to see if it includes cover for clearing up fly-tipping incidents or consider adding this cover to your policy in future.


Andrew Askew Blain

Legal Director

Claire Brown

Trainee at Brodies LLP