Rubbish bin fines to be scrapped under new plans

Rubbish bins Households may still face sanctions if their actions cause genuine problems for the neighbourhood

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The government is to publish plans on Monday to prevent councils in England fining householders who break minor bin collection rules.

It wants an end to fines for offences such as putting waste in the wrong bins or putting bins out on the wrong day - with reduced penalties in the meantime.

Ministers think the fines - of up to £1,000 - have been used to "punish innocent mistakes".

But local authorities have said fines are only ever used as a "last resort".

They say "only a tiny minority of residents leave their rubbish piled in the street".

Under the proposed changes, to be outlined in a consultation, local authorities would only be allowed to issue fines if they can prove residents are causing a "harm to local amenity" by putting out their rubbish incorrectly.

The tighter rules would still allow councils to take action against householders who cause problems for their neighbours or the local environment by the way they dispose of their rubbish, the Environment Department (Defra) said.

Reduced penalties

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said "bullying them with fines" was not the way to get people to boost their recycling rates.

"This consultation will mean that only those causing real problems for their community will get punished," she said.

At the moment, local authorities can give out fixed penalty notices of up to £110, or push for criminal convictions and a much larger fine.

According to figures previously obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, almost 5,000 fixed penalty notices worth £215,955 were issued between May 2010 and April 2011 for offences such as using the wrong sacks for recycling or overfilling wheelie bins.

Start Quote

"Householders need not have any concerns that innocent mistakes like leaving the bin out on the wrong day or putting paper in the plastics bin will land them with a fine”

End Quote David Parsons LGA environment board

On Sunday, Defra said that to give residents relief over bin fines before the new law was brought in, waste and recycling minister Lord Taylor was writing to all councils about plans for interim reductions in penalties.

Fixed penalties currently ranging from £75 to £110 would be reduced to £60 to £80, with a discounted rate of £40 for early payment, it said.

Some environmental groups think fines can be a useful way to improve recycling rates.

'Last resort'

Friends of the Earth has previously argued that fines should be retained for some persistent offenders.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties and privacy group Big Brother Watch, said: "These fines have contributed to a dangerous and damaging escalation in the secret spying conducted by local authorities, and their abolition is an extremely positive step.

"Not only will councils now not be able to fill their coffers at the expense of residents' privacy and common sense, but it is a blow against the surveillance culture that has sadly come to define life in modern Britain."

David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association's environment board, said councils only ever issued bin fines "as an absolute last resort".

He added: "Householders need not have any concerns that innocent mistakes like leaving the bin out on the wrong day or putting paper in the plastics bin will land them with a fine.

"Only a tiny minority of households persistently leave their waste piled up in the street or wilfully contaminate their recycling - which means all other recyclables collected alongside them have to be sent to landfill.

"In these exceptional cases, where repeated attempts to help and educate them have failed, councils need effective and proportionate powers to ensure the inconsiderate actions of the few are not allowed to jeopardise the recycling efforts of the majority."

Plans to outlaw council fines for minor domestic waste offences in England were flagged up when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published the government's waste strategy in June.

The department's work relates to England, with devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland handling their own environmental affairs.

The government's waste strategy resulted from a review launched in 2010, which looked at how best to encourage householders, companies and communities to produce less waste and boost recycling.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Now why would these fines be scrapped? Is the literacy rate so low that we have to make an allowance of this sort for the public. People should be cooperative with these programs, willingly cooperate. In Canada, we use a yellow tag warning for first offence which explains what customer has done wrong, but the erroneous piece is not picked up. Compliance usually follows.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    We have umpteen bins and complicated times of collection and large numbers of people drive to the local amenities centre to join the queue for dumping stuff into containers which are then driven away in large lorries to some disposal site. However, I am sure the socialists here will suggest some way of fining the people and adding to their tax bills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    My local council website stated collections of garden waste were on alternate Fridays, but they arrived on Thursday. I rang and was told a collection would be made, but they put a sticker on the bin warning me that I should put it out on the correct day! If the website does not show the correct day then that is their error and not mine so they should pay me a fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    297 I agree - I notice a lot of people don't seem to hang onto stuff until it wears out anymore; they're constantly getting the latest gadget, piece of kit. Also a lot of products don't seem built to last anymore; especially kettles & telephones. I once had a 30 yr old kettle but they seem to break after a couple of years now..

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    Personally, I believe that the majority of people in the UK genuinely recycle as much as they can - across all generations and from all backgrounds - in spite of different or complicated systems of domestic waste collections up and down the UK.

    After all, we all know that throwing little dead batteries into general landfill bin will leach out and poison the groundwater you drink in years to come

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Comment number 20. CynicalBrit
    "As a kid, I'd collect lemonade bottles because there was 2p deposit on every one taken back to the shop for recycling. This practice should be enforced in today's environment."

    Unfortunately, manufacturers know that their profits would dwindle by about 7% if they did this, so they choose guilt-trips instead - Pepsi created that 'crying Native American' advert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    As usual the issue of personal responsibility gets the most comments, generally from those who don't exercise any. Just to make it clear. Responsibility lasts from the time you buy the item to getting rid of it in a responsible manner. Not just chucking it away as a significant number of people think is acceptable. It takes brains and commitment to act responsibly. Something in short supply today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    I tend to agree with hoeby that much recycling is not particularly good for the environment - look at the hugh cost of recycling paper, particularly the chemicals used to get rid of the print. I also believe that much of what is put out for recycling (particularly electrical and electronic goods) are transported half way round the world to be canibalised obviating any environmental advantage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Unfortunately in the UK, we do have a culture of vandalism and littering, hence recycling of domestic waste is not going to be done voluntarily.

    Recycling is important, so fines and rewards schemes are necessary for the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    275. Blightygal

    ''Marie - if you are unconvinced, just google these words "wheelie bin fine"
    I did. mainly a list of what councils could fine, not much about what they actually did. The woman who was prosecuted (Telegraph) brought home bags of shredded paper from work and put out several bin liners full. Charged with disposing of trade waste illegally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    286 I think some packaging is way too excessive. I know there's a need to protect the product but.. Anyone who helped their kids get into a presents at Christmas knows how many toys are package is way over the top, some even require a screwdriver just to access the toy! Barbie dolls are the worst even (even though its pretty difficult to damage them judging by my daughter rough handling).

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.


    To your first question that entirerly depends on how good your local Council is.

    To the second, the EU regs on landfill were taken almost verbatim from the existing regs in the UK that we intorduced over a decade ago......which we introduced because we have all but run out of landfill capacity........

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Those that deliberately have an attitude of can't and wont be bothered to sort rubbish should be the targets of fines. Not those, particularly elderly, who are unable or make mistakes.
    Wrong day or time putting out bins should never be a problem. We are trying to help collecting by putting out the bins, which were collected from us not streetside. Do not like it go back to getting them from us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    i do not know off anybody being fined for bin violation.the council would only use such a law against abject filth and rightly is this bunch of incompetent condems trying to look as if they are doing things.useless the lot of them,time toget rid of em' all..

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Just to be clear on this, much of the "recycled" rubbish simply gets shipped to China and dumped in landfill sites there. It is not reused- our government pays for it to be taken away and dumped in East Asia. As this reduces UK landfill usage, it is classed as "recycling" in the cooked figures. Not that that is an excuse, but why aren't more questions being asked of our councils?

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    A bit of political posturing, and an attempt to divert attention from the effects of Government by the bankers for the bankers? The Sunday Telegraph's figures suggest an average fine per offence of about £44, the national total being only enough to pay the CEO for a year in some local authorities. Not, I'd have thought, sufficient injustice to provoke mass rebellion by the taxpaying multitudes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Why don't we do the opposite, increase the fines for those littering the streets like pigs to cove holes in our budget and keep our streets clean and leave child support for those who contribute more taxes to our budget ? This government needs their heads examined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Excessive packaging? In my experience in manufacturing, boxes and packaging were the only things the finance and general management people understood and they were always trying to make the packaging cheaper, with the result that enormous amounts of product were damaged when it reached the customer.
    Wheelie bins? Our collectors don't mount then on the truck, just lift the bags out! Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    257. Merkin Muffley

    . . . further to my last, the output from such plants can be sold back to industry, if necessary with appropriate incentives to encourage take up. Balance that cost against EU fines and expense of imported raw materials and a positive cost benefit can be achieved

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    275 Personally I don't think it's hard to sort recycling as you go & have your rubbish ready for collection on the right day. I can see that leaving a bin to fester/ be blown over in the street might cause a problem; still think people are exaggerating the council fines thing though.
    Yes, there've been reports & whispers about what really happens to landfill - but is it truth, or myth?


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