Enforcement of Fines

"There is an extensive national legal framework in the United Kingdom to deal with littering. However, it is unclear how consistently the law is applied and whether the law provides its enforcers with a useable and proportionate framework.... what falls within the scope of ‘litter’ for legislative purposes, whose responsibility it is to clear litter; and what measures are available to address the problem of litter for local authorities and for other relevant bodies and individuals."

CPRE Introduction to Litter Law Report 2020



CPRE Recommendations:

"Legal and Policy Recommendations

  1. Government to clarify whether littering is prima facie a criminal offence of strict liability.

  2. Government to establish which organisation has responsibility for litter abatement policy, oversight and clearance obligations for the marine environment.

  3. Government to undertake evidence-based assessments of litter abatement and clearance strategies for the marine environment, building on initiatives such as the Welsh Marine Litter Action Plan.

  4. Law Commission or government to review litter/waste legislation with a view to consolidating the most important provisions in one instrument, or to produce comprehensive guidance in one consolidated document.

  5. Government to investigate levels of litter within aquatic environments and indicate minimum standards of cleanliness in an updated DEFRA Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.

  6. County councils and local authorities to work with each other more closely on litter issues and to share best practice, ensuring that they draw in expertise from voluntary organisations."


  1. Government to commission studies to establish the level of reliance placed on volunteer litter picking, including analysing the extent to which volunteers are being used as a replacement for work that should be carried out by public bodies, and the extent of involvement in dangerous litter picking activities.

  2. County councils and local authorities to be required to have greater transparency in their accounts by providing a detailed breakdown of costs involved in clearing litter and fly-tipped waste."

"Enforcement Recommendations

  1. Government to undertake a review of the issuance of FPNs, to ensure compliance with DEFRA’s guidance, thereby ensuring that the law is being correctly and uniformly applied across the country.

  2. Government to monitor waste crime statistics to determine whether increased fines for littering have, in practice, deterred people from littering.

  3. Government to review by 2023 whether the new CPN and PSPO powers are effective as enforcement mechanisms for litter removal.

  4. Consideration by government of transferring the responsibility for the clearance of busy roads (i.e. those requiring lanes to be closed by Highways England) from councils to Highways England (and equivalent bodies in Wales and Scotland).

  5. Government to review the proposal to grant Highways England the power to issue FPNs.

  6. Government to review the level of enforcement of litter law by parish councils, and identify any impediments to increased levels of enforcement, such as funding or training."

See the summary page of all recommendations here

- discuss further in the Forums

Further discussion below

Full notes on report here



CPRE commissioned The Essex School of Law to carry out  research and produce a report on Litter & the Law in 2020 which helps identify which laws apply to litter in various circumstances and who should be responsible for clearing litter.

The main recommendations (along with some other suggestions) are shown here.   

There are links (below) to the areas of law discussed in the Litter Law Report.


10.0 Financial Cost of Clearing Litter

Extract from the Litter Law Report. 

​10.1. Litter removal financial flow

  • 243. The costs involved in the clearance of litter include those for the employment of staff and any private contractors, as well as equipment and other street cleansing costs. There are two main aspects to the mapping of the financial costs of litter: first, how much does it cost local authorities to remove litter, and, secondly, how is litter removal being funded (i.e. how that funding flows from government/national bodies/agencies to the county/local level and to the various actors).

  • 244. There are many litter removal authorities, for example district and borough councils, National Park authorities, Highways England and statutory undertakers, such as Network Rail. Collectively, English local authorities are spending in the region of £791 million annually on street cleaning. That is a significant expenditure by local authorities. Highways England also estimates that it spends £6 million a year to keep England’s motorways free of litter.183 These figures are clearly not inconsequential sums.

  • 245. Some financial data on litter is available, but its scope varies depending on the council. Some local authorities that we contacted through freedom of information requests did provide detailed accounts of their annual costs for clearing litter and fly-tipped waste, complete with a breakdown of the costs for employing staff and private contractors, purchase of equipment and other costs. Other local authorities, which were unable to provide such detailed breakdown of figures, referred instead to publicly-available budget documents. In the latter cases, litter and fly-tipped costs were often bundled within a larger category of costs, and so were less precise in how they outlined litter clearance related costs. In addition, for some litter authorities, such as Network Rail and train companies, there is a lack of any available financial information on how much it costs to remove litter from their designated areas.

  • 246. Our research found that while county councils play a limited role in the actual clearance of litter, these bodies do provide much needed funding for large-scale anti-littering campaigns, such as the ‘Love Essex’ campaign. County councils also provide more small-scale grants to volunteer groups for litter picking activities.

  • 247. Council funding is distributed down to each layer of local government. At the lowest level of local government, namely at parish council level, we found that there is a dependence on routine road sweeps from district and borough councils to clear the bulk of litter from roads and related areas, but that, in addition, some parish councils also employ their own litter pickers. Litter pickers are paid from the parish council budget, which is allocated to them by the district and borough councils. Parish councils have the discretion to choose what to prioritise in terms of their spending, and clearly some parish councils see the need to invest in additional litter clearance activities.

  • 248. Council interviewees cited funding cuts as a significant problem generally, and as a key reason why litter is not being addressed. The councils with whom we spoke, particularly relayed the strain on existing council tax revenue. In relation to litter removal costs, we were told that the problem of fly-tipped waste is becoming increasingly expensive for councils to deal with. In particular, the removal of fly- tipped waste accounts for a significant portion of the budget of district and borough councils. Often, fly-tipped waste is also dangerous, such as asbestos, and the costs of removing it increases further, thus impacting on already highly-strained public budgets.

  • 249. It has been possible to obtain some quantitative data on costs for the clearance of litter and fly- tipped waste in districts in the county of Essex. Table 1 gives the total expenditure provided by a number of district and borough councils in Essex, together with some identified costs for particular activities. Note that where private contractors and employees have other functions in addition to clearing rubbish (e.g. general road maintenance), it can be difficult to identify the precise amount that it costs district and borough councils to clear litter and fly- tipped waste.

  • 250. Only one council, Basildon District Council, was able to provide a detailed breakdown of expenditure on litter and fly-tipped waste removal (see Table 2). Here the total income recorded was £812,216.59, and the net cost of the service amounts to £1,541,175.39.

  • 251. As regards the costs associated with the clearance of roads, Essex County Council has a contract with County Route to clear litter on, and undertake other responsibilities in relation, to the A130 (approximately 30 miles of highway in Essex). The cost of these services for the financial year 2015/16 was said to be £12.78 million.

  • 252. Consequently, the high costs of clearing litter from roads and other spaces demonstrate the importance of investing in strategies to reduce litter.

  • 253. Evidently, there is variable practice in the transparency of financial data produced by local authorities for litter removal. For greater transparency, and more consistency of practice, all councils should produce an annual public report providing a detailed breakdown of costs spent in clearing litter and fly-tipped waste.

  • 254. In particular, it would be useful if district and borough councils could specify in the budget line of employing in-house staff and private contractors the proportion of those costs that are attributable to anti-littering duties as opposed to other duties that these agents perform. There is no information providing for a breakdown of these roles and approximately how much time members of staff spend on their litter-clearing duties as opposed to other duties. This information would facilitate a more accurate estimate of the costs of dealing with litter and would improve financial accountability of district and borough councils.

​10.2. Sources of funding

  • 255. As mentioned above, district and borough councils set their budget each year for street cleaning. Within that budget, costs are allocated to cover: salaries for members of staff and private contractors, the purchase of equipment needed for litter removal (e.g. black bags, litter grabbers, high visibility vests) and the purchase, hire and maintenance of vehicles for removal of litter (e.g. vans and waste trucks). Some district and borough councils employ only in-house staff, while others use both in-house staff and private contractors for the purposes of removing litter. We learned that some of the personnel concerned spend only a fraction of their time on litter removal activities, and may have additional, non-litter related roles to perform. Some staff, on the other hand, are full-time, such as wardens, and some teams are large and set various output targets for themselves, such as ‘response times’.

  • 256. District and borough councils receive funding from the county council, and are also able to generate income from a number of sources, such as litter-related fines (eg FPNs), revenue from festivals, business promotions, service charges from parishes and ‘new homes bonuses’. The New Homes Bonus is a Government scheme that encourages local authorities to grant planning permission for the building of new homes and in doing so it provides a source of revenue, or ‘bonus’, for local authorities.

  • 257. Practice among councils varies, with some using income from new homes bonuses and these other sources to go straight into the main budget, whereas others organise their budgets in such a way that these additional sources of funding are used to directly fund anti-littering campaigns and activities.

  • 258. In terms of income generation, the levying of FPNs for littering is one possible source of revenue for local authorities. Our research demonstrated that some local authorities impose almost no fines for littering, while others have imposed thousands per year (Appendix I).

  • 259. For its part, DEFRA has emphasised that there should be ‘proportionate enforcement’184 and that the litter strategies of councils, which may include the use of FPNs, should not be based on targets or be used as a revenue generator.185 According to DEFRA, the income generated by FPNs (including FPNs for littering) for district, borough and unitary councils is relatively low. For example, DEFRA found that in 2008/9, 179 councils reported issuing 45,076 FPNs (not all of which were for littering). Generating a total income of £1.88m, £1.33m of which came from FPNs issued for littering.186

  • 260. Going one stage further, the Government has considered whether the revenue generated from FPNs for littering offences should be ring- fenced for street cleansing activities.187 Consequently, in the recent DEFRA Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (2019)188 a welcome development was the guidance that litter penalty receipts may be spent on, ‘Litter and refuse (including keeping land and highways clear of litter and refuse, and enforcement against littering and littering from vehicles); graffiti and fly-posting; controlling and enforcing against the unauthorised distribution of free literature.’189

  • 261. Our research found that local parish councils to date have either not been aware that they had the power to issue fines for littering, or found the training requirement to be too expensive. With increased awareness of this power and the new, less cumbersome rules on the training of such officers, it is, therefore, likely that the powers will be used more. Consequently, parish councils will be better able to tackle local litter ‘hot-spots’ and, thus, to better address litter problems in their own community. Clearly, the number of FPNs will also rise.

10.3. Financial commitments of campaign-related

  • 262. Anti-littering campaigns are a common way for both national governmental action and local community action to effect behavioural change. The ‘Clean for the Queen’ anti-littering campaign organised in 2016, for example, was a national event and was designed to tie in with the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. The ‘Love Essex’ campaign, on the other hand, is organised at the county level, and is funded jointly by district and borough councils and Essex County Council.

  • 263. Beyond campaigns, specific councils often work closely with business, schools, communities, individuals, local and national governments and other charities and voluntary organisations in order to reduce litter more generally, as well as improve local places. Councils also routinely provide equipment, such as litter-grabbers, black bags and high visibility vests, to concerned citizens and to volunteer groups who wish to clear litter.

  • 264. The funding for Colchester litter-picking events in 2016 (£10,000 x 2) was raised by the borough council from the new homes bonus. In addition, in the same year, some ten groups shared nearly £3,500 of New Homes Bonus funding to fund equipment hire and to hold community clean-up events. Colchester Borough Council, working with Colchester Community Voluntary Service (CCVS), offered grants of up to £500 to enable community groups to organise ‘Clean for the Queen’ activities throughout the year.

  • 265. Keep Britain Tidy also work to support litter picking activities, and, more specifically the establishment of different Beach Care groups, including across Essex, where volunteers gather in groups to clear litter in local seaside areas affected by litter (e.g. Mersea).

  • 266. From the above it appears that measures to tackle litter are typically short-term, such as short-term campaigns and ad hoc litter-picking events. More investment, therefore, needs to be undertaken in long-term initiatives to address the litter problem. Within Essex, a good example is provided by Braintree District Council, which has been a leading voice in the ‘Love Essex’ Campaign, and has taken ongoing measures of education and enforcement to tackle litter in its area.


Litter & the Law

links to CPRE Litter Law web site


This guide helps you identify the laws which apply to litter in various circumstances – and who should be responsible for the clearance of litter.


This guide provides an overview of how litter is defined in law and what counts as the act of littering.


Local authorities and other relevant bodies have duties to clear litter. If these organisations do not fulfil their duties, individuals may be able to take action.


What redress does the public have?

Local authorities and other relevant bodies have duties to clear litter. If these organisations do not fulfil their duties, individuals may be able to take action.

This guide explains how any member of the public fed up with a litter hot spot can take action to get the area cleaned up. By documenting the problem and complaining to the land owner you can seek a Litter Abatement Order through the Magistrates’ Court if no action is taken to get the area cleaned. Follow our step by step guide for more information.


This guide helps you identify who is responsible for litter on land. It covers highways and roads, beaches and other relevant land including railways, parks, educational institutions and private land.


Highways England and local authorities are responsible for clearing litter from roads and motorways.


The responsibility for cleaning beaches falls on the owner. Most come under the responsibility of district and borough councils.


The responsibility for clearing litter from railways, parks, private land, businesses and educational institutions falls on the respective owner. These come under the responsibility of different authorities.


This guide helps you identify who is responsible for litter in water. It covers rivers, canals, ditches, lakes and the sea.

This guide helps you identify who is responsible for litter in water. It covers rivers, canals, ditches, lakes and the sea.


This guide helps you identify who is responsible for litter in water. It covers rivers, canals, ditches, lakes and the sea.

Further discussion on recommended actions

Further questions/ actions

(comments suggestions)

The law is difficult to locate.

publicise what the law states

Unfortunately, local authorities appear not to have used these new enforcement powers to clear litter, partly due to the high legal costs associated with using such powers.

This should be made clear by LA when not enforcing clearance


Clarity in the criminal law is important, because if prosecuted in court a litterer could face a fine of up to £2,500.

Highlight potential for use of prosecution where proof is clear. What examples exist of successful prosecution?


Another notable problem with FPNs is the perennial ‘postcode’ lottery of enforcement, with some local authorities issuing thousands each year and others relatively few.

How do we improve consistency?


We found that important drivers in dealing with litter are

  • the willingness of the local authority to spend its very limited budget on anti-littering activities,

  • the level of interest by local businesses in organising and funding litter campaigns and activities, and

  • the scale of volunteerism among members of the local community to give over their time and energy to undertake litter picking.

Three targeted actions?

It is not clear that the public fully understands the scope of the law and how it operates.

Educate public


Similarly, local authorities continue to diverge somewhat in the items that they classify as ‘litter’, particularly with regard to the feeding of birds and ducks, for example, and whether bread thrown for ducks is littering. Examples from the media also suggest that the definition is not fully understood by enforcement officers, leading to injustices.

Educate enforcement officers


Moreover, the level of enforcement varies substantially between local authorities, with some issuing thousands of FPNs in a year, others issuing only a handful, and some none at all.
Enforcement powers also exist at the level of parish councils, but knowledge of this power seemed to be generally lacking with the consequence that an enforcement gap is created.

Educate parish councils


A new national provision in England allows civil charges to be imposed on registered keepers of vehicles from which littering offences are committed.

what provision? How much fine?


Local authorities have a duty to consult on litter abatement. It is the duty of each county council to consult with the local authorities (including any National Park authorities) in its area and to agree on steps that each will take for the purpose of abating litter in the county. Councils are encouraged also to consult with voluntary bodies.

Volunteers check this is being done?


Consequently, responsibilities for clearance are based largely on land ownership, and, where ownership of a particular piece of land is unclear, often this will lead to delays in clearance, sometimes for many years, while ownership issues are resolved. As regards the duty to clear litter, the standard of cleanliness expected is detailed in the 2006 DEFRA Code of Practice8.

Establishment of land ownership a priority where continuing problem exists


The obligation to clear aquatic waters is assumed by the Environment Agency to be imposed on the riparian landowner. Awareness of this potential legal obligation among riparian landowners, however, is generally low. Moreover, there is no designated statutory body with the responsibility for clearing aquatic litter, save in the event of flooding. Relying on riparian landowners to clear litter is also problematic as clearing litter from rivers can be a dangerous task, as well as an expensive one.

Responsibility for clearance needs to be changed (to local authority?)


In practice, the demarcation between the two categories of roads is not always clear. If a local authority is to clear a busy road, however, it must clearly liaise with Highways England in order to do so, because in order to ensure the safety of litter removal agents at least one or two lanes of the road will usually have to be closed.

Why are local authorities clearing roads that Highways England control?


Highways England has no enforcement powers, even in relation to the roads that it is obliged to keep clear. If agents of Highways England spot a litterer, therefore, they must inform the local authority, or other enforcement agents. There is, therefore, a gap in enforcement in practice, which raises the question of whether Highways England should also have enforcement powers.

Highways England should also have enforcement powers.


In the alternative, public space protection orders (PSPO) are designed to deal with a particular nuisance or problem in a specific area by imposing conditions on use of the area – thus, could be used to prohibit litter in a public place. Still, these two mechanisms are relatively new and it is unclear how well they are working in practice, compared to the previous mechanisms of litter clearing notices and street litter control notices.

Are there any case studies?


In Wales, the Eco-Schools initiative encourages pupils to engage with environmental and sustainable development issues, and the Welsh Government’s ‘Tidy Towns’ initiative provides funds to community groups, local authorities and to the Keep Wales Tidy scheme, so as to make areas cleaner, tidier and safer.

What about Eco Schools in England?


The UK has no statutorily designated body with the responsibility to clear litter in marine waters. Although the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) sets the policy for the UK marine environment and may become involved in the clearing of litter on the waters, seemingly neither that body nor any other is duty-bound to do so.

To ensure greater action on marine litter issues in the future, this situation needs to change.

See the summary page of all recommendations here

- discuss further in the Forums

CPRE Recommendations here

Further extract from report

The Government’s 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment promises a new national anti-litter campaign, for example, and seeks to develop a culture that teaches young people (in particular) not to litter. Such campaigns, together with business-led Codes of Practice and the use of volunteer litter pickers, are increasingly relied upon to help combat littering and its effects on society.

The true scale of voluntary litter pickers in England and Wales remains unknown. We found that a high number of dedicated individuals and groups cleared litter from the local rivers and paths, for example, and from children’s play areas and green spaces. In addition, many businesses are engaging with local communities to organise and fund litter picking in their local areas.

One question raised by such scale of volunteerism, is whether local authorities, and other land-owners, are over-relying on such volunteers to help them meet their litter clearance duties. Reliance on volunteers was particularly observable in respect of aquatic litter, which is particularly concerning as watercourses can present a number of hazards to volunteers.

While government strategies and planning is essential, much of the action to deal with litter depends on location.