Caven blog

‘Unreasonable’ council fines for household-waste offences to be scrapped by Government

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, spoke on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show this week-end. He vowed the Government will introduce legislation, in the next session of Parliament, to stop local councils fining residents for a range of infractions in putting out their rubbish for collection.

For example, according to the Telegraph, Pickles says that it is ‘ludicrous’ fines can be issued for trivial matters such as over-filling wheelie-bins, putting yoghurt pots into the wrong recycling container, and leaving bins out too long after collections.

When the regulations were introduced by Labour in 2000, Pickles complained they would not encourage environmental action, and said the fines were a ‘stealth tax’ that would encourage fly-tipping and a rise in the burning of rubbish in back gardens.

Householders have a legal responsibility or ‘duty of care’ to ensure that their waste is stored securely for collection, and managed in a way that does not adversely affect human health or pollute the environment; this duty is set out in Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Currently, if a householder is negligent in this matter, their local council can serve them with a legal Notice in accordance with Section 46 of the Act.

The Notice will detail penalties that can be imposed for further offences. If a householder ignores the warning, they may receive a Fixed Penalty Notice for up to £80; if criminal proceedings are started, they could have to go to court and face a fine of up to £1,000.

According to the Daily Mail, around 3,200 fines were issued by local authorities in the year 2011-12 for rubbish-related offences, including seemingly trivial matters such as leaving bin lids open.

Pickles wants families to be encouraged to recycle their rubbish, and advocates a reward scheme to achieve this aim.

For example, in Windsor and Maidenhead many householders receive vouchers to spend in local shops or leisure facilities in return for recycling their waste. Households put their recyclable material into special recycling bins, which are micro-chipped, so that refuse trucks can weigh how much waste each home has contributed.

Last year, the Communities Secretary also threatened to cut grants for councils which refused to reinstate weekly bin collections, after nearly 180 local authorities decided rubbish trucks would only collect once a fortnight to save money.

According to the Mail, Pickles said the decrease in rubbish collections was a breach of citizens’ ‘fundamental rights’.

Hard-pressed households could probably do without the threat of fines for something as mundane as failing to sort their rubbish correctly, although councils will continue to be able to issue fines if people allow their waste to become a serious problem.

However, encouraging more households to recycle can only be a good thing for the environment; furthermore, as the old saying goes, “where there’s muck, there’s brass”.

Original story:

The Telegraph

The Daily Mail

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