Litter is any substance or object dropped, dumped or discarded which is or is likely to become unsightly and which is visible from a public place. Examples include chewing gum, cigarette butts, sweet wrappers, plastic bags and plastic bottles.
It is an offence to:
illegally dump your waste
give your waste to a collector that does not have a valid waste collection permit
collect waste without a waste collection permit.
The litter laws have increased the powers of local authorities to combat the problem of illegal dumping of refuse and rubbish. If you see someone dumping illegally, you should report the matter to your local authority who will investigate and take any necessary enforcement action.
If your local authority finds material that is illegally dumped and establishes the identity of the owner of the material, that person will have a case to answer without necessarily having to be caught in the act. In addition, extra powers are also available to your local authority to require a householder or business operator to indicate how and where they are disposing of their waste. This is particularly relevant if the householder or business owner is not availing of a refuse collection service or is not bringing their waste to an authorised disposal facility.
Under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997-2009, each Local Authority is given responsibilities regarding litter prevention and control in its functional area. These Acts also outline your responsibilities regarding litter. An on-the-spot fine of €150 can be issued for any breaches of these Acts, or a fine of €3,000 may be imposed if legal proceedings are initiated against you.
You are breaking the law when:
- You create litter in a public place.
- You present your household waste for collection in a manner that creates litter.
- You own or occupy land visible from a public place and you fail to keep it litter free.
- You burn any materials on your lands including household waste, hedge clippings, tree branches, etc.
- You own or occupy land within a speed limit area and fail to keep footpaths, pavements or grass verges along the road in front of your property litter free.
- You own, hire or drive a vehicle and litter is dropped from it.
- You place household waste into a street litter bin.
- You own or hire a skip and fail to take measures to prevent litter generation.
- You fail to clean up after your dog in public areas.
- You place advertising flyers or notices on vehicles.
- You place unauthorised notices or advertisements on structures such as poles, trees, etc. visible from a public place.
In addition to the above offences, as a business owner you are breaking the law when:
- You create litter due to a business activity, and/or associated with loading, transporting or handling of goods.
- You present your commercial waste for collection in a manner which creates litter.
- You dispose of any waste materials by burning.
- You operate a mobile outlet and fail to provide a litter bin or fail to collect /dispose of litter resulting from your activity.
Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence, which can be subject to an on-the-spot fine of €150 or a maximum fine of €3,000 in court.
A person convicted of a litter offence may also be required by the court to pay the local authority's costs and expenses in investigating the offence and bringing the prosecution.
If you are the owner or the person responsible for a place to which the public has access, you are obliged to keep the place litter free, regardless of how the litter got there. This applies to any public place and may include the precincts of a shopping centre, a school campus, a public park, a train or bus station.
A local authority can instruct the occupier of a business to take measures to prevent the creation of litter by his/her business within 100 metres of the business premises. Such measures may include for example the removal of litter and/or the provision of litter bins.
Occupiers of businesses situated beside a public road and within a speed limit area are responsible for keeping the footpath outside their business free of litter, regardless of how it got there. It is an offence to remove litter from a footpath by seeping it or placing it onto the road.
The owner or occupier of property that can be seen from a public place is obliged to keep it free of litter. Basically, any outdoor area on your property that is visible from a public place must be kept free of litter.
Where litter has accumulated on property for whatever reason and the litter is visible from a public place, the local authority can issue a notice to the owner or occupier requiring the prompt removal of the litter. Such a notice can also set down precautionary measures to be put in place to prevent a reoccurrence.
If a property owner or occupier fails or refuses to do everything that has been requested, the local authority has the power to do whatever is necessary itself and require the owner or occupier to pay all of the costs involved.
The litter laws have increased the powers of local authorities to combat the problem of illegal dumping of refuse and rubbish. Where a local authority finds material that is illegally dumped and establishes the identity of the owner of the material, that person will have a case to answer without necessarily having to be caught in the act.
Where the identity of an owner is established in any dumping incident, regardless of whether they were caught in the act, proceedings will be taken against the owner of the waste. It is the duty of the owner of the waste to ensure correct disposal of waste.
This can be done either by bringing it to an authorised waste disposal facility and disposing of it correctly in the facility or by availing of a waste collection service with valid waste permit for the type of waste. Householders and businesses have received fines or prosecutions as a result of using bogus collectors.
Cork County Council can require a householder or business operator to indicate how and where they are disposing of their waste. If you see someone dumping waste please report the matter to your Local Authority who will investigate and take any necessary enforcement action.
If you see someone dumping illegally, report the matter to Cork County Council who will investigate and take any necessary enforcement action.
The promoters or organisers of major events are required to ensure that they have litter control measures in place at the venue and in the surrounding vicinity before, during and after the event. This applies to football matches and other social and sporting events at which large crowds attend. It is possible that this task can be undertaken by the local authority but the promoter/organiser must bear the costs involved.
Operators of mobile food outlets selling fast food or beverages, or other outlets such as those selling farm produce are obliged to provide suitable litter bins in the vicinity of their outlets. Also, they must clean-up any litter arising from the operation of their outlets within a radius of 100 metres from their outlet.
Dog owners must now remove their pets' waste from public places and dispose of it in a proper manner. This obligation applies to the following places:
- public roads and footpaths
- areas around shopping centres
- school/sports grounds
- the immediate area surrounding another person's house.
The law forbids the putting up of posters/signs on poles or on other structures in public places unless you have the written permission of the owner of the pole or other structure in advance of putting up the posters/signs.
Following an election, a party/candidate must remove posters within a seven-day period. After that date, an on-the-spot fine of €150 is issued by the local authority in respect of each offence. Your local authority will remove the poster and issue a fine. If a party/candidate has been issued with a fine and refuses to pay, they can be prosecuted. The maximum penalty on summary conviction for non-payment of the fine is €3,000.
It is illegal to burn household or garden waste at home or in your garden. Burning waste can be a nuisance to neighbours and can also pollute the air by releasing harmful chemicals into it.
There may be many toxic chemicals in waste items. Paper waste may contain synthetic materials, preservatives and even plastics. Disposable nappies contain gels, bleaches and plastics. Many wood products are treated with toxic chemicals to prevent rot.
Burning of such wastes in low-temperature uncontrolled fires creates toxic and dangerous by-products which are not destroyed by the fire but become airborne on soot particles. These can end up being inhaled or being washed out of the air and deposited onto surrounding soil and vegetation, where they can readily enter the food chain.
Burning and the Law
Burning household waste at home or in your garden is illegal. Burning household waste can incur a fine of up to €3,000 or 12 months in prison upon summary conviction in a District Court.
Examples of where you cannot burn household or garden waste are:
- In a barrel or exposed pile in the yard or garden
- On a bonfire
- On an open fire, range or other solid fuel appliance
- In a mini-incinerator
Waste burners and other devices such as mini or household incinerators, which may be located in buildings or gardens, are illegal even if they are attached to a stack or flue.
Burning waste is an offence under waste management legislation and the Air Pollution Act 1987. The Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 strengthen the law against waste disposal by uncontrolled burning, which is also known as backyard burning.
Under Regulation 5, there is a limited exemption for the burning of uncontaminated waste generated by agricultural practices. Under the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, this exemption will cease on 1st January 2018. You are required to submit a Burning Notification Form.
Safely disposing of waste
Most areas have an organised domestic waste collection service. If you decide not to use an organised waste collection service, you can dispose of much of your own domestic waste by recycling and home composting. You can also use civic amenity centres or landfill sites.
Cork County Council’s annual Anti Litter Challenge showcases the energy and dedication of the local communities in Cork County, and is a prime example of what can be achieved by a partnership approach between the Council and the Community.
As our local communities are the lifeblood of this competition, Cork County Council is always interested in hearing from communities who have not participated previously, or who have taken a break from the competition and would like to take part again.
Please contact Environment Department, Cork County Council, Inniscarra on 021 45327oo or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Judging Guidelines can be found here.
The Application Form can be found here.
The Pride in Our Community Competition continues to encourage communities to showcase the best of their area by developing sustainable amenities that benefit the entire community. The competition, which is organised by Cork County Federation Muintir na Tire, in conjunction with Cork County Council, continues to go from strength to strength.
The aim of the 'Pride in Our Community Competition' is to encourage Community Groups and volunteers in County Cork to develop new or existing community -based Amenity/Projects that will be of long-term benefit to the community. These projects should be outdoor and available to all the community.
Over the years, the competition has developed from a small idea to the very successful and popular competition that it is today. Through this competition, Muintir na Tire recognises and acknowledges the hard work of all the community organisations involved around the County which in turn supports the development work of Cork County Council. The competition also seeks to make people aware of their environment, to continue the overall development of areas and to encourage litter free communities.
Further information and application details are available at www.muintircork.com