11th January 2022
By Emily Ledger

Cannabis fly-tippers could soon be traced with the use of a “smart water” spray in what is believed to be the first trial of its kind in the UK. There has been a rise in incidents involving the dumping of illegal cannabis in councils across the UK, including in Bradford, where the trial is set to take place.

Council officials in Bradford told the Guardian that they were taking action on the problem after a rise in cannabis fly-tipping incidents in streets as well as along streams and the surrounding countryside.

The scheme will involve police spraying cannabis crops at illegal farms that have been shut down with “smart water” which will then allow them to trace dumped plants to a specific property. It is believed that landlords rather than cultivators or drug dealers are largely responsible for dumping cannabis following police raids at their properties.

The technology has already been used successfully in tackling domestic abuse and burglaries. The spray leaves an invisible marker on items or people, allowing their movements to be traced more easily.

In a recent report from Bradford City Council, council officials said: “This is a new and innovative approach which we believe may not have been tried elsewhere in the country and clearly demonstrates the strength of the partnership between the council and the police to tackle environmental crime.”

The remains of cannabis crops – along with other waste product – is usually dumped in isolated and/or rural areas, often under the cover of nightfall. This often makes it extremely difficult for police to catch those responsible for fly-tipping.

Fly-tipping – regardless of the dumped products being illegal – is a criminal offence under environmental laws. Those found guilty of the offence can face limited fines or up to five years in prison.

Bradford City Council stated in its report that it had collected a staggering 4,882 tonnes of fly-tipped waste and litter in the year from April 2020. It also claimed that “over recent months, there have been a number of fly-tipping incidents that have involved cannabis farm waste.”

In addition to cannabis plants, which over time will naturally degrade, cannabis fly-tippers often also dump lamps, wiring, and fertilisers.

If the scheme is found to be successful, perhaps the use of smart water can be expanded to tackle the wider issue of fly-tipping as opposed to just that of cannabis waste.

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