Litter laws

Information Sources 

Environmental Protection Act 1990

DEFRA’s Litter and refuse: council responsibilities to keep land clear

DEFRA’s Litter Code of Practice

Scotland has its own Litter Code of Practice.

DEFRA’s Local Environement Quality

RCC Training’s guide to the EPA covers EPA Parts 2 and 3 which deal with “waste on land”  and “statutory nuisances and clean air” is also helpful

Chartered Institute for Waste Management (CIWM):

Environmental Cleansing Handbook 2008
Other reports

Correspondence with DEFRA re CPNs etc

Guidance on Part 4 of the EPA as amended by Cleaner Neighbourhoods and Env Act 2005 – now out of date following Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 but still useful


EPA (Environmental Protection Act 1990) Section 89 (1)
Duty to keep land and highways clear of litter etc.

It shall be the duty of ……

(a) each local authority, as respects any relevant highway or, in Scotland, relevant road for which it is responsible, [i.e. local authorities are responsible for all roads other than those covered under (b)]

(b) the Secretary of State, as respects any trunk road which is a special road and any relevant highway or relevant road for which he is responsible, [ i.e.the Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for the network of motorways and strategic roads managed by the Highways Agency in England and Transport for Scotland]

(c) each principal litter authority, as respects its relevant land, [ i.e county councils, district councils and London boroughs are responsible for land which is  open to the air, but not highways which are covered under (a),  under their direct control and to which the public are entitled or permitted to have access with or without payment (see EPA S86)]

(d) the appropriate Crown authority, as respects its relevant Crown land,

(e) each designated statutory undertaker, as respects its relevant land, [ i.e Organisations who  are permitted by Act of Parliament to operate  railways, light railways, tramways, or road transport undertakings, canals, inland navigation, docks, harbours,  piers and airports. For more see our post on  EPA Statutory Undertakers ]

(f) the governing body of each designated educational institution or in Scotland such body or, as the case may be, the education authority responsible for the management of the institution, as respects its relevant land, [i.e. the governing body of a school, college or university is responsible for cleaning that part of its land which is open to the air]

 …… to ensure that the land is, so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter and refuse.

In other words the various duty bodies are required to ensure that they keep their land clear of litter and refuse so far as is practicable.  “Practicable” as opposed to “reasonably practicable” means physically possible without regard to cost.  See our post on the meaning of “practicable“.



EPA Section 87 and 88 –  Dropping litter / Fixed Penalty Notices

It is an offence to drop litter in any place open to the air, including private land, and land covered by water.  A person found guilty can be fined up to £2,500.

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) may be issued by local authorities to people caught in the act.  If paid on time the offender avoids facing a criminal prosecution.

See our posts on the offence of dropping litter and Fixed Penalty Notices

Penalty Notices for littering (including from vehicles)


FPNs – application to Motorways

Although the Highways Authority are responsible for keeping the motorways free of litter they cannot issue FPNs on their own initiative . However they could apply to the local authorities through which their motorways run to be authorised to issue FPNs.   A team could be set up to target drivers on motorway slip roads which are littering hot spots.


EPA Section 91
Litter Abatement Orders

An individual can take action via the Magistrates Court against a duty body not complying with their duty to keep their” relevant land” and/or highways clear of litter .  See my guide to taking action – Litter Abatement Orders


EPA Section 92 (Repealed in 2014 see below)
Litter Abatement Notices 

Principal Litter Authorities (i.e.Local Councils) can take action in respect to  Crown land, land of a statutory undertaker or land of an educational institution. They can issue a Notice  requiring the controllers of the land to clear it of  litter or refuse within a certain time and /or prohibit them from letting it become defaced by litter in the future.  (I understand “statutory undertakers” would include Rail Track,  harbour and port authorities, airport operators etc.) More on EPA S92 Litter Abatement Notices


EPA S92 A – C introduced by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act – Litter Clearing Notices  
(Replaces Litter Control Areas)  (Repealed in 2014 see below)

Notices can be issued by a Local Authority on the owner of private land defaced by litter and refuse.
If not cleared the Local Authority can enter the land, clear it and recover the costs from the owner


EPA S 93 & 94A – Street Litter Control Notices (Repealed in 2014 see below)

Local Authorities can serve Street Litter Control Notices  on commercial and retail premises  requiring them to clear up litter and implement measures to prevent the adjacent land becoming defaced again. FPNs can be issued where the premises fail to comply.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

S21 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 repealed  sections 92 to 94A of the EPA  (litter abatement notices, litter clearing notices and street litter control notices) are repealed.

See Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – Litter related issues


EPA S94B and Schedule 3A introduced by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act
Distribution of Free Literature

Anyone distributing free literature  or paying for its distribution without the Local Authority’s consent is subject to a fine or a FPN

EPA S33 – Prohibition on unauthorised or harmful deposit, treatment or disposal etc. of waste.

You cannot deposit waste on land, or permit it to be deposited  other than in accordance with a license. It does not apply to household waste from a domestic property which is treated, kept or disposed of within the curtilage of the property.


Duty of care etc. as respects waste.
This imposes a number of duties on anyone who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste including preventing  the escape of the waste from his control.  Any complaints of its contravention should be made to the Environment Agency.
More on EPA S34


Notice to Remove  Controlled Waste unlawfully deposited in contravention of EPA section 33(1)

Waste collection and waste regulation authorities (Local Authorities)  can serve a notice on the occupier or owner of land to remove controlled waste unlawfully and knowingly deposited. The local authority or the Environment Agency can clear the waste and recover costs.

On any appeal  the court shall quash the requirement if it is satisfied that  the appellant neither deposited nor knowingly caused nor knowingly permitted the deposit of the waste.

This would be applicable in cases where the person in charge of a non domestic property has knowingly deposited waste on his land or had allowed others to do so.


EPA Part III (Statutory Nuisance)
Councils can serve an abatement notice if an accumulation of refuse is prejudicial to health or is a nuisance.

See Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – Litter related issues


Section 215 Town & Country Planning Act
A Planning Authority (the local authority) can serve a notice on the owners and occupiers of land requiring the site to be tidied up if it adversely affects the amenity of the neighbourhood Section 215 Town & Country Planning Act


Section 22(3) Control of Pollution Act 1974
Councils can arrange with the owner’s or occupier’s agreement for  the cleaning of land to which the public have access. Costs are payable by the owner/occupier.


Section 78 Public Health Act
Councils can sweep and cleanse any court, yard or passage which is used in common by the occupants or two or more buildings and recover the costs from them.


One comment so far

  1. […] googling the 1990 Act, the Clean Highways website seemed the likeliest link, this then refers the reader to Scotland has its own Litter Code […]