Riders against rubbish: A pile of dumped tyres

Riders Against Rubbish: Combat fly-tipping

If there is one thing that has us fuming much more than a squeaky bottom bracket it’s fly tippers ruining our countryside. Alec investigates what you can do to tackle it while remaining safe.

Sadly, fly-tipping has almost become something we almost accept – we shouldn’t. We wish it weren’t there, but it is and has been for so long that we’re less sensitive to it than we should be.

I’d go so far as saying, we hardly notice it anymore. It’s only after returning from somewhere where litter is absent that it’s really noticeable at home.

Despite a general desensitising to roadside litter, its been impossible ignore the surge in fly-tipping here in my home county of Norfolk. And no doubt, it is a similar story in your neck of the woods too.

I’ve been outraged by the brazenness of the fly tippers. Staggered by their determination to reach remote spots far from paved roads and on a few occasions, just been left upset at the scale of the problem.

fly-tipping rubbish in the countryside

Dumped far enough off the road that it now becomes the landowners responsibility – a system which seems grossly unfair.

I’ve gone from being furious that some people think that this is acceptable, to angry that the authorities aren’t dealing with the issue and frustrated that petty charges at proper recycling centres seem to be only confounding the problem.

I assume you’ve experienced these same feelings, but getting angry doesn’t help. What can we actually do about it?

Don’t just ride by

The good news is there is something we can do. And all you need is your phone – at least to begin with.

Who better to find and report fly-tipping than a group of people equipped with GPS, cameras and a desire to get out and explore?

See it, say it, sort it

See It

When you do find some fly-tipping and once your initial anger has subsided, take a few moments and photograph the site. Show what waste is there and if you can, any landmarks nearby.

Then make a note of where it is. There are two simple ways of doing this. The first is a screenshot of whatever mapping app you use that shows your current location. The second option is to download the OS Locate App – this is free to get and use. It gives you accurate Latitude and Longitude data, so the app would also be handy in an emergency situation. In my opinion, it’s worth having on your phone anyway.

Fly-tipping rubbish in the countryside

More images of fly-tipping rubbish on Peddars Way

Say it

Then you need to report the fly-tipping to the local authorities. Here’s where you might need to be a bit of a detective. You have to report the fly-tipping to the borough where the rubbish has been dumped. There’s a good chance this won’t be your borough, so you might need to cross-reference the borough boundaries to figure out who to report it to.

If you know the borough you’re in, then simply search ‘report fly-tipping in borough ‘x’ ‘. If you don’t know the borough the rubbish is in, you might need to search via the gov website’s find your local council service.

I’ve checked a number of borough websites and they all have the facility to report fly-tipping, so I’d be surprised if your borough doesn’t. It is normally just a few steps and you’re done, but it is easier to complete on a proper computer once you’re home – possibly with a cup of tea.

Sort it

I ask for updates when I report issues near me, but I appreciate not everyone wants to do that. Armed with all your photos and location info, the council should spring into action. Ok, that might be a bit optimistic, but they should deal with it eventually.


Cambridgeshire based fen cyclist, @fenduro pointed out an alternative method, using a clever app called ClearWaste. This app avoids all the hassle of trying to figure out which borough to report fly-tipping to and does all the hard work for you.

It’s free to download, free to use and takes all the guesswork out of who to report to. More importantly, it lets you simply ‘see it, say it, sort it‘ right there, right then. One simple screen and you can ride on safe in the knowledge that you’ve done your bit.

I would still recommend the OS Locate App to anyone riding (or walking or whatever), its a brilliant tool to have at your disposal, but ClearWaste seems to be a one-stop-shop. I haven’t yet had the chance to test it, but sadly I suspect I wont have long to wait.

I reported it, but no one sorted it

Here’s the frustration. You can do your bit, report the fly-tipping and a week or so later, ride by and see the heap still sitting there. Local authorities will only clear fly-tipping from council-owned land and verges. They won’t clear fly-tipping from private land. Instead, they say this is the responsibility of the landowner to clear and dispose of responsibly.

Annoyingly, the increase in fly-tipping is likely to only further discourage landowners from granting greater access to tracks and trails not currently listed as public rights of way or bridleways. The clear-up costs incurred by private landowners can only contribute to the ‘get off my land’ attitude, so it’s up to us to be allies.

Signal your virtue

I really would encourage you to share when you report fly-tipping. At the moment, it takes about 30 minutes of laptop time to properly report an incident. With more of us doing it – and being seen protecting our wild and beautiful spaces, helping landowners avoid costs etc. we strengthen our position when asking for greater access. It might also encourage local councils to develop quicker ways to report a problem.

We have the technology, we explore the spaces, lets help keep our trails clean.

Protect yourself

Here’s my final comment – if you see someone fly-tipping do NOT confront them yourself. You are very exposed and vulnerable while out riding – and as annoying as fly-tipping is, you have to put your safety first.

That said, if you can get a vehicle make, model and registration without putting yourself in danger, that information could help the local authorities make a conviction – if you have provided that data, I would strongly recommend not sharing anything on social media – certainly do not ‘name and shame’ online.

Alec is a serial biker, having dabbled in road, TT, mountain biking and gravel. If he's not riding, or dreaming of riding, he can be found in the shed tinkering…

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