For many people litter is the most important issue of the local environmental quality agenda, as it is the most widespread blight of our public spaces. It is costing councils half a billion pounds annually to clear it up.

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Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 sets out the powers and duties relating to litter. Section 89 of the Act provides the duty for local authorities and other statutory undertakers, including Network Rail and the Highways Agency, to clear litter and refuse from land and highways. Expected cleansing times and standards are contained in the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.

Local authorities have the power to serve Litter Abatement Notices where statutory undertakers are failing to sufficiently carry out their litter cleansing duties. Furthermore, where persistent proliferation of litter can be traced to a particular premises adjacent to the street, local authorities can issue a Street Control Litter Notice on the occupier, or if unoccupied, on the owner, of the premises requiring them to undertake cleansing.

It is an offence under section 87 to throw down or drop litter. Local authority wardens have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to anyone caught littering. If the offender fails to pay the fine within 14 days they may be prosecuted and fined up to £2500. Police and private individuals can also bring prosecutions.

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Page last modified: 16 December 2010
Page published: 9 July 2004