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Spoils precious green spaces. Dangerous to humans and wildlife. Could contain toxic material or asbestos. Damages the watercourses and soil quality. Ugly eyesore. Local nuisance. Breeding ground for pests such as rats and cockroaches.

Despite all of these negative impacts, local authorities across England had to deal with 976,000 fly-tipping incidents in the year running up to March 2020. In other words, roughly 20,000 people per week on average thought it was a good idea to dump their household or commercial waste on a road, pavement, piece of farmland or another place where they aren’t supposed to.

Environmental support services

At around the time that the collection of these statistics ended, three businesses working in collaboration took their new solution to the marketplace. John Roberts, Solutions Director at Kingdom L A Support which provides environmental support services to local bodies across the UK, said: “Through working with local councils for the best part of ten years, I’ve seen first-hand how steep the rise in environmental crime has been. Knowing that the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns could only worsen the growing problem, I was worried.”

Three businesses working in collaboration took their new solution to the marketplace

Up until that point, fly-tipping was being tackled in one of two ways. Either local councils would need to watch hours and hours of standard CCTV footage, which was often too poor quality for any faces or number plates to be identified anyway, or local authority officers were tasked with manually trawling through the rubbish to find some proof of address that could link the waste to the person who dumped it leading to lengthy investigations.”

Grade video analytics

As you can imagine, neither were effective – and both used up huge amounts of local authority time and budgets. So, I reached out to Kingdom Systems and Bi3 to see if anything could be done.” WasteWatch Cam is a next-generation camera solution that has been designed specifically to capture littering and fly-tipping offenses by harnessing enterprise grade video analytics which learns scenes and objects through patented algorithms, combined with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).

Richard Eaves, Head of Business Intelligence and Operations at Business Insight 3 (Bi3) said: “I led a specialist team to run through all stages of the product’s technology development – from initial testing and feedback to real world deployment. This took approximately six months due to the need to create a bespoke software application that could link two technologies – one that was well-established and the other that was cutting-edge.”

Clear video footage

The system also detects number plates captured within the local vicinity using dedicated ANPR cameras"

The software that Bi3 created was also designed to trigger a user-friendly email alert whenever an incident is captured, which is immediately transmitted to the L A Support team, along with all supporting evidence, including clear video footage and screenshots of the fly-tipping taking place. “The custom-built detection systems aren’t like any other,” said Craig Walton, Head of Systems at Kingdom Systems which delivers cost-effective security systems.

The 5MP HD cameras with starlight technology enable the enterprise grade video analytics to detect and alert on littering of objects as small as a box of McDonalds McNuggets. The system also detects number plates captured within the local vicinity using dedicated ANPR cameras which come fitted and powerful auto adapting infra-red lights that enable it to capture footage no matter the light quality or weather conditions.”

Standard CCTV cameras

L A Support then provides vital human verification of this evidence, before taking action in the form of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), warnings and – where that is not followed through – prosecution. This makes the solution completely end-to-end, with everything from detecting the offense to holding the offender accountable, taken care of by WasteWatch Cam.

The standard CCTV cameras that were in place were capturing about 50 incidents a week

Dartford Borough Council was needing to move up to three tonnes of fly-tipped waste from a lay-by that had become notorious for fly-tipping, every week. The standard CCTV cameras that were in place were capturing about 50 incidents a week, but only a fraction of this footage was clear enough to be used to hold an offender accountable.

Evidence being indisputable

Earlier this year, the Council installed WasteWatch Cam in the fly-tipping hotspot. In the first week that it was there, seven incidents were captured and – due to the evidence being indisputable – all seven offenders paid their FPNs.

More than that, the Council only needed to clear less than one tonne of waste from the spot in the whole first three months that WasteWatch was installed – a huge decrease from nearly three tonnes per week. Richard Cherry, Enforcement Manager at Dartford Borough Council said: “Fly-tipping has a huge impact on our local environment and our reputation.”

Fly-Tipping hotspot

The number of incidents in that spot is 1% what it once was, and the number hasn’t increased elsewhere"

Unfortunately, because we’re so close to the M25, we feel that knock-on effect of passing motorists thinking they can dump their waste here and get away with it. But the installation of WasteWatch Cam has been hugely successful. Unlike measures that were in place before, it’s not just a deterrent – fly-tippers don’t just see it and dump their waste elsewhere – it’s preventive.”

The number of incidents in that spot is 1% what it once was, and the number hasn’t increased elsewhere.” The Council has now installed WasteWatch Cam in another spot, just outside the town of New Barn.

Financially-Beneficial solution

Roberts said: “I think the potential for WasteWatch is endless. Even months after it was first installed in Dartford, the incident rate hasn’t risen. It’s a long-term, financially-beneficial solution that holds offenders responsible and means that taxpayers’ money can be put towards a better purpose, rather than clearing up after people who destroy our countryside and communities.”

The advanced technology and hardware mean it could be the key to truly cracking down on this issue"

Expanding on the different settings that WasteWatch could be installed at, Walton said: “There’s no reason why it couldn’t be installed on every motorway, piece of private agricultural land, fly-tipping hotspot and beauty spot across the UK. The advanced technology and hardware mean it could be the key to truly cracking down on this issue and creating much cleaner, greener spaces for us all.”

Online learning platforms

As consumers, we are slowly starting to accept the many different benefits of technology into our lives,” added Eaves. “We use a FitBit to monitor our health, online learning platforms to develop our knowledge, and even drones to speed up search and rescue missions. Now is the time we use AI and video analytics to rid of fly-tipping.”

WasteWatch Cam is an end-to-end solution designed to support tackle the UK’s growing problem of fly-tipping. Created in 2020, it uses a combination of ANPR and video analytics to effectively identify offenders and their vehicles in the course of littering and fly-tipping as well as see to it that the individual is held responsible through a highly experienced enforcement team issuing FPNs, warnings and – where that is not followed through – prosecution.

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