Litter and the law
Since 1990 the dropping of litter and the subsequent clearing up have been regulated by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). It makes the Local Authority (Hillingdon) the Litter Authority for their area. They are responsible for ensuring that all ‘relevant land’ is clear of litter. If a piece of land is open to the public and open to the sky it is ‘relevant land’.
What is Litter?
Almost everything deposited by human action is classed as litter, cigarette ends, chewing gum, sweet wrappers refuse sacks etc. Leaves falling from a tree are not litter but hedge clippings are.
Who are the culprits?
It must be remembered that it is people who create litter and the Local Authority that have to clean it up. The EPA makes it an offence to drop litter, this is punishable by a £2,500 fine. It is an offence whether the litter is dropped by a pedestrian or from a car. It also gives a Litter Authority powers to control businesses and other enterprises that create litter on adjoining land such as car boot sales, fast food outlets and supermarkets etc. It makes it possible for a Litter Authority to introduce a fixed penalty system to control the dropping of litter. Hillingdon issues £80 fixed penalty notices to those caught dropping litter. Details of their successful actions can be seen on www.hillingdon.gov.uk under Littering
The Litter Code of Practice
When litter defaces an area of relevant land the local authority have to clean it up. How quickly they have to do this is governed by the Litter Code of Practice. The code gives grades for the amount of litter, from Grade A, free of litter, to Grade D, heavily littered. It also categorises land according to use so a town centre is a Zone 1, low density residential Zone 3, schools Zone 8 etc, all land is categorised including railway land. So a heavily littered town centre should be cleared of litter in one hour, a heavily littered low density residential should be cleared of litter in six hours. Full details are available in the Litter Code Of Practice available at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/local/litter/code/documents/cop-litter.pdf
A map showing details of the zones is a public domain document and must be freely available for a member of the public to inspect at the Civic Centre at any reasonable time.
What can you do when somewhere is littered?
Tell Hillingdon, their eyes cannot be everywhere (even with CCTV), call Hillingdon’s Streetcare Line 01895 556000 or report it online at www.hillingdon.gov.uk and let them know the location and the cause or origin of the litter if possible. Check to see if the litter is cleared if it isn’t let them know again.
What if nothing happens?
The EPA does contain a remedy for a member of the public that is aggrieved by the litter authority’s failure to carry out their responsibilities. The aggrieved person has to give the Litter Authority written notice that in 5 days they will go to the local magistrate’s court and make a complaint. The court can make a litter order requiring the Litter Authority to carry out their duties and fine them for every day they do not. For details see http://www.cleanhighways.co.uk/ or download a guide from the Campaign for Rural England website www.cpre.org.uk .
Who checks up on all this?
The local authority has to carry out random but regular checks on all its land and roads and grade the cleanliness.