The Dropping of Litter


The dropping of litter can cause many problems for both local authorities and local residents situated in certain areas. Accordingly there is much legislation put in place to combat this environmental problem.

What is meant by litter?

Litter is taken to mean anything that is dropped in a public place from sweet wrappers to bin liners to household waste and now also includes smoking related litter.

The Offence of Dropping Litter

Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes it an offence to throw down, drop or otherwise deposit and then leave, litter in any place in the open air.

Section 27 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amends the offence to include within the definition of litter the discarded ends of cigarettes, cigars and the discarded remains of other products designed for chewing.

If caught will I face a sanction?

Those caught dropping litter in accordance with Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act will be guilty of a criminal offence and liable for a maximum fine of £2,500.

Due to the time consuming nature and the cost of prosecuting individuals for dropping litter then the preferred route to be taken is that of a fixed penalty notice.

Fixed Penalty Notices

Section 88 of the Environmental Protection Act as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act gives local authorities the power to issue fixed penalty notice for the offence of dropping litter.

While the individual is subject to the fixed penalty notice no criminal proceedings can be brought against him for 14 days after he has become subject to the notice or if he pays the notice. If he does not pay the notice then criminal convictions can be brought.

The Clean Neighbourhoods Act specifies the usual fixed penalty for this offence to be £75. The local authority is able to specify a higher or lower penalty (between £60 – £80) however if it deems it to be necessary.

Failure to comply will result in a criminal sanction.

Responsibility for Cleaning Litter

Public Land

On public land the local authority has a legal duty to clear refuse and litter from the land for which it has responsibility. This can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Roads

  • Parks

  • Playgrounds

  • Pedestrian areas

  • Tourist beaches

Section 56 of the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 enables a local authority in England to enter land owned by the Crown or a statutory undertaker in order to clean the land.

Local authorities are also able to place controls on the distribution of free literature.

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For more information on:

  • Private Land
  • Notices
  • Street Litter Control Notices
  • Litter Clearing Notices
  • Litter Abatement Notices