More than 4,100 incidents of fly-tipping have been reported in Aberdeenshire over the last seven years – but just six have resulted in a fine or court action.
Litter louts have been causing misery across the north-east, with hundreds of incidents reported to the council, Sepa and police each year.
And the true figure for 2012-2018 could be far higher than 4,109 due a fault with the reporting system in 2015.
But due to the difficulties around catching the culprits in the act, just six have been issued with a fixed penalty notice or faced court action.
By this year there, there had already been 283 cases reported.
Last night, the council’s infrastructure services vice-chairman John Cox attributed the figures with a change in shopping culture.
He said: “People are buying more things online such as tyres and now, particularly as the council is planning to stop accepting them, some people think the only way to get rid of them is to dump them.
“It’s a big problem and understandably there are very few convictions as people are rarely seen dumping the rubbish.”
Aberdeenshire Council investigates each reported incident, looking for details to track down the culprits but admitted that in the majority of cases it is difficult to do so.
If the authority does track down a fly-tipper, it can issue a FPN but must have sufficient evidence to do so.
Council waste manager Ros Baxter said: “We receive hundreds of reports of fly-tipping annually. Every instance is regrettable and we depend on it being reported to us with sufficient evidence to have any chance of taking enforcement action.
“Aberdeenshire is a beautiful area and we encourage everyone to take responsibility when dealing with their waste and take their litter home, rather than fly-tipping, which has a negative effect on our stunning and diverse landscape and our communities.”
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In March, Buchan was identified as the worst area in Aberdeenshire for fly-tipping – with Peterhead the worst town. Asbestos, building waste and bulky household items were among the items dumped.
And last year, huge mounds of earth, car tyres and other debris were dumped at Stirling Hill, near Boddam, which locals described as an “unsightly blot on the landscape”.
A spokesman for Sepa – which dealt with 411 of the reported incidents from 2012-18 – said: “Fly-tipping is not a victimless crime and clearing it up costs Scottish local authorities.
“It also undermines legitimate waste businesses, where illegal operators undercut those operating within the law.
“We all have a legal responsibility to ensure that we produce, store, transport and dispose of our waste without harming the environment, which means we need to ensure that only licenced professionals handle our waste.”
Charity Keep Scotland Beautiful echoed the call for people to take responsibility for the disposal of their belongings.
Chief executive Derek Robertson said: “We have warned that litter and fly-tipping in Scotland is at the worst recorded levels in a decade.
“Local authorities spend annually an estimated £9m tackling fly-tipping.
“The harsh truth is that Scotland’s litter and fly-tipping levels are getting worse and the solution lies in long term behaviour change.
“Individuals, manufacturers, government and politicians all need to work together to make sure that there is less waste to dispose of and less being thrown away.”
People who do come across waste dumped illegally or who witness it can call the council wasteline on 03456 081207 or Sepa’s Dumb Dumpers Stopline on 0845 230 4090.