Landlords who illegally dump the remains of cannabis farms will be traced using “smart water” spray in what is thought to be one of the first trials of its kind in the UK.
Council officials in Bradford said they were taking action after a rise in the number of cannabis farms that had been fly-tipped in streets, along streams and in country lanes.
It is thought that landlords, rather than drug dealers, have been dumping the illegal waste following police raids.
In a new approach to be approved by councillors on Tuesday, police officers will spray cannabis farms that have been shut down with so-called smart water so they can trace the drugs to a specific property if it is fly-tipped.
The spray leaves an invisible marker on items or people so their movements can be more easily uncovered. It has been used by police in the UK to tackle domestic abuse and to ward off burglars.
Officials at Bradford city council said they believed it was the first time such an approach had been used to tackle cannabis farm fly–tipping.
They said in a report: “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.”
Environmental officers across the the UK have tried for years to tackle the dumping of illegal and harmful substances.
Fly-tipping is a criminal offence under environmental laws and can be punished with unlimited fines or imprisonment of up to five years.
The remains of cannabis farms are often dumped in rural locations under the cover of darkness, making it difficult to prosecute the culprits. Farmers and landowners often have to foot the bill to clear up the mess.
In 2020, police surveyed more than 75 farmers and landowners in North Yorkshire about fly-tipping – 10 of whom reported having cannabis waste dumped on their land within the previous 12 months.
One farmer said the remains of cannabis farms were being fly-tipped on their land every couple of months.
In Bradford, bags have been found to contain dead cannabis plants, lamps, wiring and tubs of fertiliser.
The council report, which is due to be discussed by its regeneration and environment scrutiny committee on Tuesday, said it collected 4,882 tonnes of fly-tipped waste and litter in the year from April 2020.
Referring to cannabis, it added: “Over recent months, there have been a number of fly-tipping incidents that have involved cannabis farm waste.”