FLY-TIPPING has increased by more than a half in Carmarthenshire at a time when refuse collectors pulled out the stops to ensure residents’ rubbish was picked up from the kerbside.
Household waste recycling centres were closed in Wales for seven weeks during the first coronavirus lockdown – and some people decided to blight the environment with their rubbish instead.
But, as well as a 54% rise in fly-tipping over the last eight months – including reports of people from outside Carmarthenshire coming in and illegally dumping waste – refuse collectors picked up 35% more food waste from the kerbside and 34% more recycled items than normal.
And the number of garden waste subscribers ballooned from 4,200 to just under 9,000.
Speaking at a council scrutiny committee meeting, Cllr Philip Hughes, executive board member for public protection, said fly-tipping had been an issue “for quite some time” before the the pandemic.
He added: “The fact that recycling centres closed has not helped. Since they have reopened I have seen a levelling off. I would not say it’s declining.”
Jonathan Morgan, head of homes and safer communities, said fly-tipping had decreased slightly since the summer.
Environmental enforcement activity in Carmarthenshire was suspended during the lockdown, but it is now back to between a third and half of its normal capacity.
Other environmental and highways services were disrupted significantly, with some staff redeployed to Covid response roles and others shielding at home.
Cllr Hughes and executive board member for environment, Cllr Hazel Evans, thanked staff and arm’s-length waste company Cwm Environmental for their efforts.
“There were huge logistical implications,” said Cllr Evans.
Another organisational challenge was recruiting 150 staff in four weeks to take on school cleaning duties.
All this has cost money, not all of which the council expects to get back from the Welsh Government.
Planning enforcement staff are also playing catch-up, according to Cllr Hughes.
“Officers need to focus on the high priority cases, which means smaller breaches may take some time to get around to,” he said.
However, much of the work of the council’s rural conservation team has continued, and a long-term project to fell trees blighted by ash dieback is back on track.
Cllr Hughes said there have been upsides in the changes to working practices.
“Many of the new ways of working have benefits and should be kept,” he said.