According to council chiefs, illegal dumping of waste in Epping Forest has soared by more than 50 percent since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. The latest clampdown targeted the use of fraudulent firms illegally disposing waste in the woodland that straddles London and Essex.
Epping Forest is home to more than one million trees, some of which are up to 1,000 years old – as well as around 500 rare and endangered plant, fungi and insect species living in the woods.
Now, 10 people have been convicted and fined for illegally dumping large amounts of rubbish in the Forest – including people who paid firms that irresponsibly disposed of their waste.
The fly-tips included multiple black sacks of waste, builders’ rubble, furniture and other household junk – with there even being soil waste from cannabis cultivation dumped there.
There were 414 fly-tips cleared from Epping Forest in 2019, 466 in 2020 and 379 already this year.
According to concerned council bosses, if the current rate continues it would lead to around 650 across the whole of 2021.
So far this year, around one in six examples of fly-tipping were in the forest interior (17 percent), 68 percent were at the side of roads, nine percent in car parks and six percent on forest paths.
A total of £9,085 in fines were issued to the 10 people convicted of fly-tipping at Basildon, Chelmsford and Thames Magistrates Courts – in addition to five warrants for the arrest of suspects who failed to appear at court.
Some of the prosecutions, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, were for irresponsibly depositing large amounts of waste in the Forest personally and others for having their rubbish illegally dumped by a firm they had hired to dispose of their waste.
The soaring cost of removing fly-tips has forced the City of London Corporation, which is responsible for the management of Epping Forest, to divert £440,000 away from public recreation and wildlife conservation to simply disposing of rubbish.
Graeme Doshi-Smith, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, said: “Epping Forest is more important than ever before to local communities, and we will do everything in our power to protect it.
“Fly tipping is a crime which damages the environment and wastes resources that could be better used to support the site. We continue to clamp down on and prosecute as many incidents as possible.
“Not everyone is aware of Section 34 but people really need to be careful when paying firms to cheaply dispose of their waste. It is their responsibility to ensure these are reputable companies as if not, they could end up with a knock on their door and be prosecuted for an illegal fly tip.”
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