Hefty fines of more than £100 for small mistakes such as leaving your bin lid open have been cut under changes to the law brought in by Defra today.
New rules coming in today reduce the maximum fines under the current fixed penalty notice system that councils can give out to householders for overfilling their bin or accidentally putting their rubbish out an hour too early.
These fines have been reduced from a maximum of £110 to as little as £40.
Announcing the changes, Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said:
“The threat of a £110 fine for a simple mistake such as putting your bin out an hour early suggests the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Today is the first step towards a return to common sense. People should be encouraged to do their bit by putting out their rubbish in the right way, but hefty fines are not the way to do it.”
Defra is also pursuing a longer-term law change that will remove the threat of bin fines for anyone who makes an innocent mistake such as putting out their waste an hour too early or leaving their bin lid open. The move would mean that fines would only be available if a householder is causing ‘harm to local amenity’ by putting out their rubbish in the wrong way. Councils could still take action against people who cause problems for their neighbours or the local environment by not managing their rubbish properly, without the same threat applying to people that make innocent mistakes that have no impact on their local area.
A consultation on this change was carried out earlier this year and the responses are currently being considered.
The intention to reduce penalties for incorrectly putting out household waste for collection was set out in the Waste review, published in June last year.
Existing powers and penalties are outlined in section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990.
The interim changes in the range of fixed penalties available under the current civil sanctions will mean these reduce from £75-110 to £60-80, with a discounted rate of £40 for early payment. If councils do not specify the amount of the fixed penalty notices, a default of £60 will apply.
In addition to the current fixed penalty notice system, criminal sanctions are also currently available under section 46 of the EPA. We intend to remove these criminal sanctions, leaving only civil sanctions available, and introduce the “harm to local amenity” test. Primary legislation is needed to make these changes. The Waste Review states that this will take time, and says that we will reduce the level of fines applying under the current fixed penalty notice system to a fairer level in the meantime. We have introduced these interim changes today, and we will take forward the long term legislative changes as Parliamentary time allows.