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Council advises residents to avoid using illegal waste companies and avoid hefty fly-tipping charges

Posted on 10 May 2024
Irvine Beach Park Waste  (1)

This picture shows some of the resident's waste that was illegally dumped at Irvine Beach Park recently


North Ayrshire Council is encouraging residents not to use unlicensed waste carriers who advertise on social media.

Residents who pay illegal waste collection companies – usually offering same-day uplifts of garden waste and household rubbish – can, unwittingly, be funding criminal activity.

Anyone using social media will be familiar with adverts for junk removal and waste clearances without realising corrupt operators, who dump the waste in country lanes and beauty spots, are behind many of them.

The Council is encouraging residents to follow guidelines from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to avoid getting involved with illegal waste carriers.

A young North Ayrshire mum, who was scammed at the start of this year, paid a company she found on social media a total of £450 and when they dumped her waste at Irvine Beach Park she was left facing a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice and a Council clean-up bill of £1825.

The fly-tipped waste was reported to the Council by a member of the public, and a tractor and trailer was needed to clear up the mess due to the volume of rubbish involved.

The pile dumped at the beach park included tiles, slabs, kitchen worktops, cardboard and paint tins.

The householder, who was making improvement to her garden and renovating her home, was traced because packaging among the dumped rubbish had her name and address on it.

She said: “It started off when I told these people I had scrap metal they could have for free. When they came to the house, they said their dad had a rubbish removal firm and they could separate my waste and dispose of it responsibly.

“I paid these people in good faith, and they looked legitimate. I wasn’t suspicious at all. They had a business card and an official-looking letter to say they were registered to remove waste.

“When the letters came through from the Council about the fly-tupping I was so embarrassed and felt sick. I had sleepless nights and felt foolish. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody, and I have warned all my neighbours.

“As a family, we love going to the beach to walk and watch sunsets. And we always take a bin bag to bring our rubbish home. I was devastated that our rubbish was dumped at the beach, and I felt humiliated.”

In this case, the resident had to go through the Council’s enforcement procedure, and she came to an amicable agreement to settle her case following an investigation.

She warned other residents: “Don’t use companies that advertise on social media because anyone can post ads. Do your homework, follow the SEPA guidelines and if you are in a hurry just wait and do it right.

“Also, don’t hand over cash because legitimate businesses only take a deposit initially and would also have a card machine. When these people asked me for more money to take away additional items, I felt pressured – please don’t feel pressured.”

SEPA has been campaigning recently to raise public awareness of criminal waste activity and highlight how residents can spot it.

According to SEPA, up to 60 per cent of businesses advertising waste collection services on social media could be breaking the law by operating without holding the required waste carrier licence.

This means people handing over their waste may be unknowingly contributing to fly-tipping and other waste crime.

Adverts offering junk removal, waste clearances, man-with-a-van collections and Household Waste and Recycling Centre runs often look legitimate – but many are not.

Often, when residents pay for these services, their waste is either burned or fly-tipped – damaging the environment.

Councillor Tony Gurney, Cabinet Member for Green Environment and Economy, said: “It is important that residents use only registered waste carriers to avoid using illegal companies online as many of these will simply take your waste and fly-tip it.

“This causes damage to the environment, makes North Ayrshire look uninviting and can lead to fines and clean-up charges for residents who unwittingly pay rogue companies. The consequences can be serious, and the charges substantial.”

Jennifer Shearer, Head of Enforcement at SEPA, added: “These businesses can look very professional and legitimate, with engaging adverts and reviews of great services - but what we are finding is they are often illegal.

“These rogue traders are operating unlawfully, without the correct licences, and are often illegally disposing of the waste in Scotland's environment.”

 SEPA says red flags to look out for include adverts that:

  • Offer cheap or same-day waste collection
  • Claim to be “SEPA insured” – SEPA do not provide insurance.
  • Claiming “waste is all recycled where it can be” – where are they taking the waste? - or
  • Don’t provide any way to contact them other than via direct messaging on social media.

To avoid putting money in the pockets of scammers, you should:

  • Ask the service provider, in advance, for their waste carrier number
  • Check that they are registered with SEPA here: Register of Waste Carriers and Brokers | SEPA
  • Ask where they are taking your waste
  • Get a fair price for the service
  • and don’t be pressured into handing over cash.

To report litter issues to North Ayrshire Council, please go online to https://tinyurl.com/3xkhsudm

If you suspect someone is operating illegally and may be fly-tipping waste, you can alert SEPA here: Report an environmental event | Beta | SEPA | Scottish Environment Protection Agency

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.