The Valleys Regional Park
Parc Rhanbarthol y Cymoedd
FLY-TIPPING ACTION WALES IN THE VALLEYS
A clean and pleasant environment
The Community Pride Total Focus Area Campaign: Presenting a Clean and Pleasant Environment for Visitors programme was envisaged as a specific project within the wider ERDF project to address environmental blight such as litter, fly-tipping and burnt-out cars.
The VRP partners, particularly the local authorities, remained concerned about the effect of ‘environmental blight’ such as litter, fly-tipping, burnt out cars, and illegal off road motorcycling, on the prospects for promoting tourism activity. Specifically, stakeholders were concerned that if the approaches to, and areas surrounding key visitor sites were blighted with fly-tipped debris, visitors would be unlikely to gain and retain a favourable impression of the Valleys.
In response, the Environment Agency Wales (now part of Natural Resources Wales) was identified as the organisation best able to coordinate specific appropriate action through its FlyTipping Action Wales (FtAW) initiative in the VRP area.
Following a successful funding application, some EAW staff were seconded to the project and additional members recruited. A key aspiration was that initiatives should be sustainable beyond the life of the funding. £632,000 was allocated within the VRP project to support the Environment Agency Wales to coordinate a “Community Pride Total Focus Area Campaign”.
Commencing in March 2011, the focus was at the level of local authorities and concentrated on problem areas with the greatest potential for increased visitor numbers with the emphasis on Enforcement, Engagement, and Education through a number of activities.
A key initiative was the upgrading of the FlyCapture statistical tracking system with an innovative ‘Fly-Mapper’ Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS units were distributed to the nine Local Authorities across the Valleys who were trained in the use of the new equipment.
In place of simply counting fly-tipping incidence, authorities can now geo-locate the incident and provide a picture of the infringement in order to identify the nature of the fly-tipped waste.
The Registered Waste Carrier messages, which communicated the licensing requirements for waste carrying, were heard by 1,115,000 radio listeners. The initiative also featured on the UK-wide, Channel 5 programme, The Wright Stuff, seen by some 700,000 viewers whilst further TV exposure came through the Filthy Rotten Scoundrels’ programme on BBC1 viewed by 1.5 million people across the UK.
More locally, the campaign was publicised on 152,000 beer mats in 153 pubs; on bus stop adverts passed by 256 buses on 19 routes; and in the GoGreen magazine currently circulated to 409,000 readers.
The Fly-tipping Campaign also mobilised social media resources, with 503 follows on Twitter and 180 registered likes on Facebook, the overall result of which is a 61% increase in traffic since the start of the project.
In the same vein, the ‘Total Focus’ Community Events were held over a 5-week period in Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Neath Port Talbot, Merthyr Tydfil and Carmarthenshire. In Torfaen, for example, amongst other activities, the event included co-ordinated clean-up and improvements to a footpath serving Pontymoel Basin Canal, which had been recently refurbished through VRP funding; a clean-up of fly-tipped tyres on Cefn Crib Common; and free advice given to customers of Travis Perkins Builders Merchants on the legal obligation of holding waste carrier licences.
In total Focus Events generated 2.5 million ‘opportunities to see, which is understood to be the total number of times a particular audience is exposed to the materials. As part of this, 1,500 members of the public were engaged, 42% of which were previously unaware of ‘duty of care’. The project also linked with over 877 construction businesses and 65 Local Authority Officers over 12 days, members of which were trained with relevant fly-tipping information. For example, the campaign delivered presentations to 720 construction students in Bridgend with the outcome that the 84% of students previously unaware of ‘duty of care’ have now been exposed to the concept and its value for the Valleys. Finally, the number of ‘Waste Carrier Stop Checks’ and surveillance operations also increased.
Outcomes and Learning
Following the ‘Presenting a Clean and Present Environment’ project, there was a reduction in fly-tipping across VRP in 2012, equivalent to a financial saving of around £232,508 based on the assumption that investigation and clean-up costs of fly-tipping is an estimated £148.00 per small transit van-load.
More importantly however, manager Gary Evans identified that the focus on sustainability adopted by the VRP provided the motivation for thinking about dealing with fly-tipping more creatively than had previously been the case, commenting that that “We are now so far ahead of our colleagues in England and Scotland, and the Valleys Regional Park funding gave us the opportunity to develop the GPS that made this possible”.
The impact of the GPS output has allowed authorities to identify hotspot areas and trends to share with other stakeholders in order to better understand the nature of fly-tipping that needs to be targeted. For example, the approach allows evidence based understanding of how decisions in waste processing provision, including the adjustments in costs charged to the public for using waste disposal facilities, affect fly-tipping activities. The detailed digital record also prevents the loss of institutional knowledge following personnel changes.
The value of this approach has been identified by Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish equivalent of FtAW. This organisation funded further development of the GPS system and trialed it through a second pilot stage in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was on the basis of this technology that the Scottish Environmental protection Agency won funding to demonstrate innovative ways to understand tackle and reduce waste crime through the application of technology. FtAW will roll out the scheme to around seven Local Authorities in Wales in 2014 for more feedback.
Despite the success of the GPS technology however, its application has varied in Wales and therefore efforts to set up an information sharing platform have been more limited. The reason for this is that as the investigation of fly-tipping is not a statutory requirement for Local Authorities, with some choosing only to clean up blight and not engage with its reduction. However, following lobbying from FtAW, the Welsh Government is now considering an amendment to the statutory law.
The developers of the GPS system would like to integrate public participation to allow other stakeholders to tag and photograph fly-tipping incidents to contribute to the information available for analysis and action. FtAW will work hard in order to make investigation of fly-tipping activity by local authorities a statutory requirement. The initiative also wants to continue to work with educational stakeholders, for example those responsible for delivering training to those in the building trades, to influence the curriculum to include waste disposal, disposal methods, budgeting, advice and penalties for contravention.