Rural experts are warning of the ‘hidden cost’ of fly-tipping after it was revealed South Yorkshire councils spent more than £1.6 million clearing up 23, 000 incidents of dumped litter last year.
Figures from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs showed Sheffield Council spent £639, 713 between April 2016 and March 2017 clearing up 12, 026 fly-tipping incidents.
But Yorkshire-based farm insurance company Lycetts said the figures, originally released in October last year, are not a true reflection of the scale of the problem as they only account for fly-tipping incidents on council land, not private land.
They said farmers who fall prey to the crime are having to shoulder the burden as they are responsible for meeting the cost of clearing rubbish from their land themselves – at an average cost of £1, 000 per incident.
Now a Sheffield farmer has spoken out to raise awareness of the hidden cost of fly-tipping and urged litter louts to think twice before dumping litter on farm land.
Ash Malia, manager at Whirlow Hall Farm, said the charity was targeted by fly-tippers who dumped household waste on two occasions about five years ago.
He said: "There were things like old carpets and big construction bags near the entrance. It looked awful and we had to remove it at our cost, which is obviously not great when you are a charitable trust.
"If you take £1000 a time as an average for fly-tipping, that could feed our sheep for half a year, so it is costly.
"People should be more considerate and not do it. They may be making a quick buck or saving time by dumping it but it costs someone else a lot of money."
He was also speaking after mindless vandals set fire to hay bails at the farm, which provides education sessions for thousands of visiting school pupils every year, in November last year causing £2000 worth of damage.
Gerard Salvin, divisional director at Lycetts, said many farmers across the country are having to deal with the issue - and it is putting some at risk of going out of business.
He said: "With many authorities looking at introducing charges for bulky waste and organic waste collections and charging for dumping waste at council-run tips, there is a fear that fly-tipping incidents on farmland will increase.
“If farmers are unfortunate enough to have a fly-tipping ‘hot spot’ on their land, costs soon tot up and their business could be put in jeopardy.”
Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, it cost Doncaster Council more than £552, 352 to deal with 3476 incidents. In Rotherham it cost £262, 397 to tackle 3525 incidents, while over in Barnsley the figure was £238, 224 to clear up 4328 occasions of dumped litter.
In addition, each authority said January often sees a rise in fly-tipping incidents due to members of the public illegally dumping festive waste, such as old Christmas trees.
A Sheffield Council spokesman warned the crime can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.
He urged residents to dispose of Christmas trees at one of the authority's waste recycling centres.