The Litter Pollution Act 1997 as amended was introduced on 1st July 1997 and provides the statutory framework for local authorities to prevent and control the litter problem in their functional area. The Act also introduced strong penalties which gives local authorities the power to take enforcement action against those who contravene these laws.
While litter seems a minor problem set against environmental crises such as global warming, climate change and biodiversity loss, it nonetheless has a negative impact on the appearance of our towns and countryside, on human health, on wildlife and represents a significant cost on local authorities to remove.
Definition of Litter
The definition of litter is quite broad and extends beyond small waste items discarded inappropriately i.e. cigarette litter, food related litter including chewing gum, sweet papers, single use cups and bottles, etc. It also includes graffiti, unauthorised signage and any item which is likely to become unsightly.
Section 2(1) of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 as amended defines litter as “a substance or object, whether or not intended as a waste (other than waste within the meaning of the Waste Management Act 1996 as amended, which is properly consigned for disposal) that, when deposited in a place other than a litter receptacle or other place lawfully designated for the deposit, is or likely to become unsightly, deleterious, nauseous or unsanitary, whether by itself or with any other substance or object, and regardless of its size or volume or the extent of the deposit”.
Prohibitions relating to Litter
Section 3(1) of the Act states that “no person shall deposit any substance or object so as to create litter in a public place or in any place that is visible to any extent from a public place”.
Section 3(2) of the Act states that no person shall (a) deposit anything that is commercial, household, industrial or municipal waste in any place for collection by or on behalf of a local authority or by another person, or (b) load transport, unload or otherwise handle or process anything or carry on a businesses, trade or activity in such circumstance as to create litter or lead to litter in any public place or any place that is visible to any extent from a public place.
Section 3(3) of the Act states “no person shall place municipal waste into or near a litter receptacle”.
Section 3(4) of the Act states “no person shall move or interfere with a litter receptacle that has been provided by a local authority or other person unless the movement or interference is authorised by the Council or other person”. A person who contravenes any of the above provisions shall be guilty of an offence.
Duty of occupiers regarding litter
Section 6(1) of the Act states that “the occupier of a public place (not being a public road or a building or other structure) shall keep the place free of litter”.
Section 6(2) of the Act states that “the occupiers of any land (other than land consist of a building or other structure) that is not a public place shall keep the land free of litter that is to any extent visible from a public place”.
Local Authority Functions and Duties Generally
Duty respecting public roads
Section 7 of the Act states “a local authority shall ensure that each public road in its functional area is so far as practicable kept free of litter”.
Prevention of creation of litter
Section 8(1) of the Act states that a “a local authority shall take all practicable measures for the prevention of the creation, and for the prevention and overcoming of the polluting effects, of litter in its functional area and for the control and disposal of litter and, for those purposes, may enter into arrangements with, or assist, other persons (including other local authorities) for or in the taking of such measures on behalf of the authority.”
Measures taken shall include:
- (a) The collection and disposal of litter
- (b) Promote awareness of the polluting effects of litter
- (c) Encourage participation by persons in preventing and overcoming litter
- (d) Provision of facilities and services in relation to litter, including publicity, advisory and educational services
Littering Related Matters
Section 15(1) of the Act states that “the owner, occupier of person in charge of a mobile outlet that is used wholly or partly for the sale of produce, food or drink shall, at all times when the outlet is open to customers provide and maintain adequate litter receptacles in order to prevent the creation of litter at or in the vicinity of the outlet while it is in operation”. Any litter caused by the operation of the outlet must be removed from the vicinity within a radius of 100 metres from their outlet.
Under Section 17 of the Act, 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 any event including sporting events where a large number of persons are likely to be present.
Advertising Posters and Signs
Under Section 19(1) of the Act it is prohibited to exhibit any advertisement (posters and signs) on land, including grass verges and roadsides, poles, or other structures which are located in or visible from a public place without permission from the local authority. Some exemptions may apply for local events under Planning and Development Regulations 2011 as amended.
Under Section 19(2) of the Act, the placing of advertising material on a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is prohibited.
Dog Related Offences
Under Section 22 of the Act, where faeces have been deposited by a dog in any place outlined below and the person in charge of the dog has not immediately removed the faeces and ensured its appropriate disposal, that person shall be guilty of an offence. This applies to the following locations:
- Public roads and footpaths.
- Land forming part of a retail shopping centre.
- Schools, sports grounds, playing fields or recreational area.
- The curtilage of another person’s property.
Litter & Waste Complaints
The Council acknowledges the support that it receives from the public in the reporting of incidences of littering. These complaints can be reported directly to the Council by telephone, via email, the Environmental Complaint Form on the Council’s webpage and through the Council’s social media. Complaints can also be made through the National Environmental Complaints Line on 1850 365 121 or through the “See It?, Say It?” app. All complaints received are recorded and fully investigated.
On-the-Spot Litter Fines
The Council has the power to proceed with enforcement action for litter offences under the Litter Pollution Act 1997 as amended. Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence which can be subject to an on-the-spot Litter Fine of €150 and a maximum fine of €4,000 via successful prosecution through the courts. Any person convicted of a litter offence may be required by the Court to pay the Council’s costs and expenses in investigating the offence, site clean-up and in bringing the prosecution to Court.
County of Cavan (Segregation, Storage and Presentation of Household and Commercial Waste) Bye-Laws, 2019
Pursuant to Part 19 of the Local Government Act 2001, as amended and Section 35(1) of the Waste Management Act 1996, as amended, the Council have made Bye-Laws in relation to the segregation, storage and presentation of household & commercial waste within its functional area. These Bye-Laws have been made in the interests of the common good, to ensure the proper management of waste and to assist in the prevention and control of environmental pollution. These Bye-Laws came into force on the 13th December 2019.