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Government doubles maximum fine for littering

The maximum on-the-spot fine for littering and graffiti has been almost doubled from £80 to £150 as the government cracks down on this anti-social and environmentally damaging behaviour, it was announced last week (1 April).

The penalties will also, for the first time, be able to be used against vehicle owners if it can be proved that litter has been thrown from their car.

Keeping the UK’s streets clean is not cheap – the total bill for tackling litter footed by local authorities stands at an eye-watering £682 million, which equates to £29 per household per year.

Government doubles maximum fine for littering

While the government is keen to get the nation’s littering epidemic under control, it has also urged councils to proceed with caution when imposing penalties, taking into account local circumstances and ability to pay when setting the level for these fines. Government guidance is provided to aid councils in settling on appropriate levels.

The changes to the levels of penalties for littering follow a public consultation launched after the release of England’s first ever Litter Strategy in April 2017, in which the proposal to raise maximum fines to £150 was first floated. The public response to the consultation showed that 9 out of 10 respondents were in favour of increasing penalties for littering.

And it is not just petty litterers who are targeted by the new government measures, with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) extending the landfill tax to cover unauthorised waste sites.

Resources Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "These new fines will tackle antisocial behaviour by hitting litter louts in the pocket, whether it’s litter that is thrown from a vehicle or dropped in the street. Littering is a scourge on our environment and we waste taxpayers’ money cleaning it up – funds which could be better spent in the community. We want to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, and I encourage everyone to take responsibility for their litter and recycle more."

With the accompanying news that motorists, for the first time, also face being hit with fines if it can be proved that litter was thrown from their vehicle, Edmund King OBE, president of motoring organisation the AA, said: "There is no excuse for car litter louts. Tossing rubbish from vehicles spoils the environment, costs millions and puts road workers’ lives at risk when they have to clear up. The majority of our members support higher fines for littering and we welcome these steps to tackle this unnecessary problem. It is not difficult for car occupants to bag it and bin it.

“When AA employees have conducted litter picks and our members have surveyed local roadside litter, we are always astonished at the number of plastic bottles, take-away wrappers and even kitchen sinks discarded at the roadside."

These latest moves to crack down on litter are part of a larger attempt from government to prevent waste spoiling the UK’s environment. Back in January, the government published its long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan, which committed the UK to eliminating ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042 as well as extending the five pence levy on single-use plastic bags to all retailers in England.

Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed last week that subject to a consultation it would be introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers, including those made from plastic, in order to reduce littering and improve recycling rates by the end of 2018.

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