Litter and fly-tipping in England Contents

4Legislation and its enforcement

Penalties for litter

44.Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes dropping litter a criminal offence subject to a fine of up to £2,500 on summary conviction in court. The Government reports that 5,500 people convicted in magistrates’ courts of littering in 2013, and the average fine was £140.78 However, because of the costs associated with going to court, most local authorities, who are responsible for enforcing this legislation, seek instead to impose a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for littering, which is a civil matter. The current FPN for litter is between £40 and £80, with the average fine being £75.79 There were 30,678 fixed penalty notices issued in 2008–09, the last year for which figures are available, of which 19,039 were paid.80 On the basis of the average fine of £75, this would amount to approximately £1.4 million in revenue for local authorities. This compares, as we noted in the previous chapter, with estimates of between £717 and £850 million spent on removing litter.

45.New legislation in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act came into force in October 2014. It empowers local authority officers to issue Community Protection Notices (CPNs) against people who drop litter. They can also issue a CPN where litter has accumulated and is considered to be causing a problem for the community. The Government explained:

CPNs are intended to enable these authorities to deal with particular, on-going problems or nuisances, (including accumulations of litter on public or private land) which negatively affect the community’s quality of life, by targeting the person responsible. The notice will direct the individual, business or organisation responsible to stop causing the problem. The test will be that the local authority or police officer believes the behaviour is detrimental to the local community’s quality of life, unreasonable, and persistent.81

The Government told us that the current legislation was adequate and the level of fines was a sufficient deterrent. It said it would need strong evidence before it would consider raising it.82 However, the Government no longer requires local authorities to submit data on litter penalties and we are therefore unable to see good evidence to support its own assertion.

46.Although littering is a criminal offence, it is often acted against under civil powers by the use of fixed penalty notices. The Government has not collected data on the number of criminal cases, fines, FPNs issued or amounts collected since 2008/09. Without this information it is difficult to make an assessment of the effectiveness of FPNs, in particular, in meeting the policy objective to deter littering. In addition, even if all the FPNs issued were paid in full, the total sum would be a drop in the ocean compared with the total amount spent on clearing litter. We see a case for increasing the maximum FPN level both to encourage local authorities to make greater use of FPNs and to provide additional resources to remove litter.

47.We recommend that the Government collect data on the use of FPNs and the level and collection of fines and assess whether the maximum fine should be increased.

48.It is too early to make any assessment of Community Protection Notices, which have recently come into force.

49.We recommend that the next Government provide our successor committee with data on the use of Community Protection Notices in October 2015, when the legislation will have been in force for 12 months.

Penalties for fly-tipping

50.Fly-tipping is a criminal offence subject to a penalty of up to £50,000 or a 12 month prison sentence, or both, on summary conviction. The Government reports that local authorities dealt with over 852,000 incidents of fly-tipping in 2012/13 and carried out 425,000 enforcement actions. This resulted in only 2,000 prosecutions.83

51.Keep Britain Tidy suggested that, since the majority of fly-tipping incidents were from a small van or constituted a single bin bag, it would be better if local authorities could issue a FPN for fly-tipping offences, as is currently possible in Scotland.84 As with litter, using a FPN would make the offence a civil matter. Camden Council also argued for the introduction of FPNs for fly-tipping which it said would “enable a more efficient enforcement regime”.85

52.Fly-tipping is a serious problem for local authorities and private land owners, and it is increasing. There is therefore a need for local councils to increase their efforts both to deter fly-tipping and to penalise those who engage in it. We accept that prosecution is often difficult and costly and as a result the number of convictions for fly-tipping is low. The Government should introduce a national fixed penalty notice for small amounts of fly-tipping, which would require the lower standard of proof required for a civil penalty.

53.We examined the disposal of household goods. Sean Lawson from Warwickshire Waste Partnership explained that:

if I buy household goods—whether it be a washing machine or whatever—I can ask the supplier to take that product back, and he can charge me, or you can ring a local authority who might provide the service at cost, or you can fly-tip it. If we said to the deliverers [...]“You must take those products back,” what is the incentive of the householder or the business or whatever it might be to dump it? It has gone back and therefore it is covered […] There could be a £5 fee to take it back. If you spend £200, you don’t notice it.86

We raised the suggestion with other witnesses that bulky household items be removed as a matter of course when replacements were delivered. The cost could be built into the price and delivery companies would be under an obligation to dispose of item properly. CPRE, CleanupUK and Mick Wright, former Head of Waste Management at Luton Borough Council, all supported this proposal and also called for a strengthening of connections with the re-use sector so that charities would collect such items as well.87 Councils might reasonably forge partnerships with such charities.

54.Councils should be more proactively engaged with local voluntary groups and charities who may be willing to collect discarded goods from households free of charge to offset some of the costs to councils. In addition, we recommend that industry take away bulky items when they deliver replacements, as is already the case in relation to fridges. A charge should be built into the cost of the item to pay for this facility. Items included in this category would be televisions, cookers, washing machines, other large appliances, mattresses and sofas. New products—medium and large household items and appliances—should all have labels to remind customers to dispose of them properly. We further recommend that the Government encourage industry to implement these recommendations as good practice.

78 DCLG (LIT 093) para 2.8. Figures are available from

79 Q319

80 DCLG (LIT 093) para 2.8. Figures are available from

81 DCLG (LIT 093) para 4.7

82 Q317

83 Defra, Fly-tipping statistics for England 2013/14, 30 October 2014, p 1

84 Q263

85 London Borough of Camden (LIT 072) para 4.2

86 Q85

87 Qq13-17