Fly-tipping has increased by 300% in rural communities during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to new analysis.

Researchers from the universities of Southampton and Portsmouth said the increase in illegal waste dumping has followed the closure of almost all tips, while at the same time the number of DIY projects has increased by householders stuck at home.

The problem has also been worsened with nearly half of all local authority recycling services in the country having been stopped or reduced, and charity shops being closed and not able to take unwanted goods.

Coronavirus – Thu Apr 9, 2020
Fly-tipping has increased by 300% ((Winchester City Council/PA)

The researchers also highlight that increased food waste is expected from the £1.9 billion worth of groceries stockpiled by panic-buyers at the start of the crisis.

And the increase in home deliveries is leading to a shortage of cardboard as many households are unable to recycle.

The researchers also point out that the environmental impact of the closures may be worsened with valuable resources having to be extracted that would normally have come from recyclables that have now ended up in landfill.

Professor Ian Williams, of the School of Engineering at the University of Southampton, said: “This pandemic has been a wake-up call to governments and the waste sector to ensure that supply chains and markets for recyclates are diverse and resilient.

“Our current waste management system will need to evolve to be resilient to the impacts of these rare, extreme, global events to create a successful circular economy.”

Councillor David Renard, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Despite the inevitable impact of coronavirus, almost all councils are continuing to collect household waste and recycling normally or with only minor disruption, along with fly-tip clearance operations which have increased.

“Fly-tipping is never acceptable.

“While some councils have reported fly-tipping increases, levels have also fallen in some places.

“There are concerns that unscrupulous traders are exploiting social distancing rules in some areas to try and provide illegal waste disposal services.

“Councils appreciate residents may have larger amounts of rubbish building up and they will continue to work hard to keep waste and recycling services working as effectively as possible.”

The research comes as councils begin preparations to reopen household recycling centres.

Portsmouth City Council has said its centre could be open as early as May 11 and Hampshire County Council said its sites could open during the same week.

Deputy leader of the county council, Councillor Rob Humby, said: “We have been working on plans to reopen our sites for people to use where it is essential they do so because they cannot store their waste without causing a risk of injury, health or harm.”