Published: 06:00, 21 September 2021
| Updated: 16:06, 21 September 2021
In his hunt for Maidstone fly-tippers, Jack Orwell regularly dons his protective gloves and wades through heaps of rubbish, delving for crucial clues.
"We're looking for anything evidential, it could even be a McDonald's receipt with a partial car registration number.
"It's disgusting, in the summer it's hot and there are nappies and food, in the winter though it's all frozen over," Jack, 33, says.
Maidstone Borough Council's waste crime team comprises Jack and his colleague Jamie, and together they're responsible for investigating fly-tipping, littering, waste accumulation and other forms of waste crime.
Last year, Maidstone saw 2,952 incidents of fly-tipping. So far this year there have been 784.
Jack's job is a varied one. One moment he will be checking the council's cameras dotted around the borough, which spot suspected fly-tippers, another moment he will be knocking on someone's door, asking why their name is on an envelope which has been illegally dumped on public land.
About once a month, Jack and Jamie join forces with Kent Police officers to hunt for vehicles to seize on their "hit list", patrol waste-dumping spots and flag down any vehicles which look suspicious, and hand out fines if necessary.
Fly-tippers face a £400 fine from the council or a day in court if they refuse to pay. Those who have failed to conduct the relevant checks when having waste removed face a fine of £300. In the past three years, 12 fines for this offence have been handed out, totalling £3,600.
In the past three years, 55 fly-tipping fines have been given out, totalling £22,000.
On Friday, KentOnline joined Jack, PC Dan Perry and PC Matt Lehan of the Rural Task Force, on the search for fly-tippers.
Council officers do not have the power to flag a vehicle down, whereas police can, and they can also seize transport, Jamie explained.
Sitting in the back of an unmarked police car, on our way to meet PC Perry and PC Lehan, our first two stops were addresses associated with vehicles known to have fly-tipped, in the hope of seizing them.
These vehicles are two of eight on the team's "target list". Their details have been given to Kent Police, so they can be flagged up on the force's automatic number plate recognition cameras, in order to keep tabs on them.
It not just the police MBC work with. When a vehicle is found to have fly-tipped, say through photos or video footage taken by a nearby resident, Jack will write to Kent County Council for information on the vehicle's owner, such as their address and other important information. One individual on the list was known to be a prolific offender and a domestic abuser.
The driveways were empty so we moved on, receiving a call that PC Perry and PC Lehan had pulled over a vehicle at St Laurence Avenue, near the roundabout for the A20, and we should join them.
Earlier I had asked how you can identify a fly-tipping vehicle just from its exterior, and Jack explained there might be scratches and dirt on the back.
When we pulled up behind a yellow van on the layby, it was clear the vehicle had seen better days.
Jack Orwell, MBC waste crime team officer, speaks about his work with Kent Police
There were dents, scratches and large flakes of paint were missing from the back. The bottom side panels looked as if they were rusted and corroding away.
Rather menacingly, a golden padlock was attached to a side panel which looks like it slided to allow passengers on.
When we arrived, the officers were standing with two men, a driver and a passenger.
The officers had already opened the van, to find inside a collection of dirty and rusted towel rails, a kitchen sink, windows, what looked like a washing machine and a radiator.
After speaking to the men, Jack explained the situation to me.
The driver had come from London and had been collecting scrap in Maidstone. He was given a fine for not having the correct documentation to transfer waste, Jack said.
However, it was also clear that something else was going on. After ID and fingerprint checks, police discovered the driver had entered the UK illegally, having been deported and given a lifetime ban from entering the UK again.
The driver, wearing a black hoodie and tracksuit, was led away in handcuffs by the two police officers who had dropped us off, having been called back.
The officers did not divulge what offences the driver, who appeared calm throughout, had committed, but said they were "fairly serious" because of the ban.
As the details supplied to Jack were incorrect, he doubts the fine will be paid, although the passenger did say he would pay it. The driver did have a scrap collectors' licence for London but not Maidstone, and one is required for each area you collect in.
PC Lehan said: "They are taking legitimate business off our licence scrap metal dealers paying their licence fees."
After that unexpected turn, we headed to a business park where unlicensed carriers are known to pick up scrap. We pulled over two vans which look suspicious, including a painting and decorating business. Their sign looked stuck on and their business number belonged to a mobile, which raises red flags, PC Perry says.
However it was legitimate and the other driver was delivering for Amazon.
As well as finding and fining fly-tippers, part of Jack's job is also to prevent illegal waste dumpers and educate them. This could mean putting up signs in known hot-spots, or explaining legislation.
The biggest fly-tipping incident Jack has seen in his three years on the job, happened in June, in North Folley Road, a rural route near Coxheath.
There was a sofa and computer games amongst the loot and it would have taken a lorry about three trips to drop it off.
As we drive around the borough, we discuss the victims of fly-tipping. Of course the countryside and environment suffers, and the tax-payer whose money goes towards cleaning the mess up, but it's also the work force who are drafted in to clean up and clear the dumped waste.
And Jack says, he has noticed people are becoming more careful about removing their details from waste which is fly-tipped- suggesting his job might become harder.
The 33-year-old moved from Dartford Council where he surveilled the local authority's CCTV, because he wanted to get out and about more.
Dirty, smelly nappies withstanding, he says he loves his job, adding: "no two days are the same."