Official figures from Defra are concealing the true cost of fly-tipping in the countryside, according to insurance experts Lycetts.
The latest Defra statistics showed more than one million incidents were dealt with by English councils in 2016-17, costing the taxpayer £58m.
But head of Lycetts’ rural division William Nicholl warned the figures were not a true reflection of clear-up costs, as they only accounted for incidents on council land, not private land.
With each incident on private land costing about £1,000, plus additional potential to be liable for charges if the dumped rubbish damages the countryside, farmers are bearing much of the ‘hidden cost’ of the crime.
Mr Nicholl said: “Farmers are well aware of this issue and are saddened by the visual impact it has on the countryside they maintain, as well as it being a nuisance and inconvenience when trying to get on with their normal daily jobs.
“However, I do not think farmers are as aware that, should they fail to deal with incidences of fly-tipping on their land and it leads to environmental damage, they could be held liable under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.”
Local authorities are expecting more incidents this month as rogue residents and traders dump their Christmas trees and other post-festive rubbish.
To make matters worse, councils have been preparing to introduce charges for bulky and organic waste collection, alongside charges for council-run tips, sparking fears people will avoid the cost by dropping litter in the countryside.
Mr Nicholl said it was particularly important farm businesses protected themselves from repeat offenders, as many farm insurance policies offer assistance of up to £15,000.
He said: “Like all insurance, most of the time you may wonder what the point of having it is. However, come the day, you could be very glad the cover is in place.
“If farmers are unfortunate enough to have a fly-tipping hotspot on their land, costs soon tot up and the business could be put in jeopardy.”