- In a three-part, ‘true eco-crime’ series for Mongabay’s podcast, investigative journalists trace England’s towering illegal waste problem.
- The country is facing a mountain of waste problems, but ‘fly-tipping’ might not be one you’ve heard of: it’s the clandestine, illegal dumping of household and business waste, even dead animals, in the countryside.
- In a country that throws away more plastic per person than anywhere else in the world, fly-tipping has become a much more serious – and dangerous – problem lately, with the involvement of criminal elements seeking easy profit.
- On this episode, a mild-mannered English IT professional shares how he’s gone to great lengths — and has had to run for his life — for exposing the people behind the rubbishing of the country’s farms, fields, and public spaces.
England is facing a waste crisis, and not one you’ve likely heard of: the clandestine dumping of household and business waste, even dead animals, in the countryside.
So-called ‘fly-tipping’ happens when one hires a company to haul waste away for recycling or disposal, but instead of sending these away for proper handling – and paying the fees those services require – many companies instead drive to the nearest farm field or unattended lot and dump the waste, producing an eyesore, plus water pollution from leaking oil canisters, and even air pollution when these piles catch fire.
It’s been an issue for years, especially in a country that throws away more plastic per person than maybe anywhere else in the world (100 billion pieces per year, according to a recent estimate), but lately it’s become a mountain, and a more serious – and dangerous – problem.
In a three-part, ‘true eco-crime’ podcast series for Mongabay’s podcast, investigative environmental journalists Lucy Taylor and Dan Ashby trace this illegal ‘waste trail’ from their quiet English town to the nearby countryside, and as far away as Poland.
Episode one chronicles the struggle of an individual living in one such countryside, who has gone to extreme lengths – night vision goggles, drones, camouflage clothing, late night stakeouts, and more – to expose and stop the flood of fly-tipped rubbish: Martin Montague has also established a website, Clearwaste, to document incidents of fly-tipping, and people use it daily to report tens of thousands of incidents all over the country. Illegal landfills are also on the rise.
An otherwise polite IT entrepreneur, Montague is on a mission to put these eco-criminals out of business, and it’s come with its fair share of danger: he’s been threatened, chased by waste dumpers, and they’ve set dogs loose on him.
This episode is “The Waste Mountain” and is part one of the podcast series “Into the Wasteland,” developed with the support of Journalismfund.eu.
See and report examples of fly-tipping here at ClearWaste’s website.
Episodes two and three take the issue to a wider European scope, discussing it with Interpol and visiting a destination for British waste in Poland:
For episode two, the team details how 20% of the U.K.’s waste is handled in this illegal manner, and how the government seems powerless to stop it: that’s one in five waste disposal companies operating like criminal enterprises.
“If one in five cafés were run by criminals, wouldn’t we know about that?” one of the investigators asks rhetorically. Listen here:
On episode 3, the team visits a facility in Poland that’s supposed to be handling U.K. recycling, but finds it shuttered and infested with rats. Listen here:
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Banner image: A mountain of UK plastic waste near Wespack Recycling Factory in Malaysia, via Greenpeace Media Library.