Litter is unsightly, potentially dangerous to people or animals, and is a criminal offence. The average fine for littering is around £75, but can be up to £2,500.
The 1990 Environmental Protection Act states that if a person leaves anything that causes defacement in a public place, they're committing a littering offence. So always use a litter bin or take it home.
What is litter?
Litter is anything that causes or contributes to the defacement of a place. It can be as small as a cigarette butt or as large as a bag of rubbish, or it can mean lots of items scattered around. Legislation has now made it clear that the term specifically includes smoking-related items such as cigarette ends and cigars, and chewing gum.
I want to report a street that is littered and needs cleaning
We're responsible for cleaning streets, pavements, footpaths, pedestrian areas, verges, some car parks and play areas. To report a problem please click on the following button.
Report litter »
What is classed as a littering offence?
A person is guilty of an offence if they throw down, drop or otherwise deposit, and then leave, any litter in any place which is open to the air and publicly accessible, including private land and land covered by water.
I dispose of my cigarette ends in drains as they can't be placed in litter bins in case they catch fire - is this acceptable?
No. You're still littering if you deposit your cigarette in a drain. They can cause blockages and can be harmful to wildlife/waterways. Smokers are responsible for ensuring that they completely extinguish their cigarettes before placing them in a bin. Cigarette waste is the same as any other in terms of litter laws, and you can be issued with a fixed penalty notice for not disposing of them properly.
What action can be taken when someone has committed a littering offence?
Authorised officers can issue environmental crime reports or fixed penalty notices to offenders. An FPN gives the offender the opportunity to discharge their liability for the offence they've committed. If people fail to pay the FPN, they may be prosecuted for the original offence of depositing litter.
Why are we enforcing littering penalties?
We want to encourage people not to drop litter and help keep the area clean. Keep Britain Tidy estimates that it costs council tax payers £500m a year to clean up litter. We pay particular attention to areas where there have been problems in the past, and we often rely on you to report these 'hotspots' to us.
If I pick up the litter after an officer has approached me, do I still receive a fine?
Littering offences relate to the dropping/depositing of litter and the abandonment of it, so whether or not you volunteer to pick up what you've dropped, you have still committed an offence if you originally walked away, so you may receive an FPN.
How do I report a 'hotspot' area for a littering patrol?
If you can provide details of an area and a time where/when littering occurs, we'll try to patrol the area with a view to issuing ECRs or FPNs to offenders.
Littering from vehicles
Throwing litter from vehicles onto land is also a littering offence under section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. With details of the driver's vehicle, including the registration number, we can obtain the registered keeper's name and address from the DVLA. We can then issue an ECR or FPN if the offender can reasonably be identified.
Street litter control notice
We can serve a notice where the management of certain commercial or retail premises don't take responsibility for the litter that their patrons produce. A notice would require the occupier of the premises to clear litter from the footway adjacent to land within 100m of their premises. This is to ensure that the business takes responsibility for the litter seriously.