Litter law in Ireland
- Where to apply
The Litter Pollution Act, 1997, as amended by the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 and the Protection of the Environment Act 2003, introduced strong penalties in Ireland to help combat the problems of litter pollution more effectively. The definition of ‘litter’ under this legislation is quite wide and extends from casual pieces of paper or cigarette ends to anything large or small that is, or is likely to become, unsightly.
Your local authority is responsible for implementing the litter laws in your area. This means it is responsible for the prevention and control of litter and has the power to take enforcement action against people who break or ignore these laws. Your local authority is responsible for keeping public places that are under its control, (including public roads), clear of litter as far as is practicably possible. This includes the arrangement of cleansing programmes and the provision and emptying of litter bins. Gardai also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines for litter offences.
Each local authority is obliged to prepare a litter management plan for its own area. This plan sets out the local authority’s objectives to prevent and control litter as well as measures to encourage public awareness of litter. The plan must also set out the measures and arrangements by which the authority intends to achieve its objectives. In preparing a litter management plan, the local authority is obliged to consult with local community and voluntary interests before a plan is adopted by the council members.
Fines for littering
Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence that can be subject to an on-the-spot fine of €150 or a maximum fine of €3,000 if you are convicted of a litter offence in the District Court. Where an offence continues after conviction, the person concerned is guilty of a further offence and liable to a fine not exceeding 600 euro for each day during which the contravention continues. The Protection of the Environment Act 2003 introduced conviction on indictment and carries a maximum fine not exceeding €130,000 and a fine not exceeding €10,000 per day for continuing offences.
You can be issued with an on-the-spot fine by a litter warden appointed by your local authority or by a member of the Gardai. If you are convicted of a litter offence, you may also be required by the court to pay the local authority’s costs and expenses in investigating the offence and any costs incurred in bringing the prosecution.
Litter and public places
If you either own or are responsible for a place to which the public has access (i.e, places like a school campus, public park, train or bus station or the precincts of a shopping centre), you are obliged by law to keep the place litter-free, regardless of how the litter got there.
Litter and private property
The owner or occupier of property that can be seen from a public place, is also obliged to keep the property free of litter. This means that any outdoor area on your property visible from a public place must be kept free of litter. Failure to keep your property free of litter can result in a fine or prosecution by your local authority.
Local authorities and litter blackspots
Where litter has accumulated on property for any reason and this 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.
Litter control at major events
The promoters or organisers of major events (i.e, football matches and social and sporting 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 task can be undertaken by the local authority but the promoter/organiser must bear the costs involved.
Mobile food outlets
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 of their outlet.
The litter laws have increased the powers of your local authority 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.
Alternatively you can report illegal dumping to a 24 hour lo-call telephone number 1850 365 121. Local authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency and an Garda Síochána will follow up on the information given as appropriate. Information that you give can be treated confidentially although you are encouraged to give your contact details as authorities may wish to follow-up with you in relation to the investigation of illegal dumping.
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.
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.
You can read more about the responsibilities of dog owners, in our document about control of dogs.
Posters and signs
The law forbids the putting up of posters/signs on poles or 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 and requires that an article or advertisement must carry the name and address of the person:
- Who is promoting or arranging the meeting or event being advertised, or
- In any other case, on whose behalf the article or advertisement is being exhibited.
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.
The placing of advertising leaflets on car windscreens is illegal. If you are proposing to distribute advertising leaflets in the street, you should first check with the local authority to see if they have introduced any local litter restrictions, which they are entitled to do.
Presenting your refuse for collection
Taking a few small precautions in the way you present your refuse for collection will help enormously in preventing the creation of litter. If you are not already using a wheelie-bin or ordinary refuse bin, you should use strong plastic bags and avoid using lightweight supermarket type bags. You should put out refuse for collection on the morning of the collection and not on the day or night before. The longer it is left out for collection, the more likely it is to attract the unwanted attention of dogs, cats, birds or rodents. It is an offence to dispose of your household refuse in street litter bins. If you do so, you will face prosecution by your local authority.
You will be charged an on-the-spot fine of €150 for leaving or throwing litter in a public place. There is a maximum fine of €3,000 if you are convicted of a litter offence in the District Court
Where to apply
For information about the litter policies in your area, including information on your duties and obligations, maximum fines and penalties, contact your local authority.
You can report incidences of illegal dumping to a 24 hour lo-call number 1850 365 121. Complaints are notified to a co-ordinator who will pass on details to the local authority, an Garda Síochána or the Environmental Protection Agency.
Further information on litter monitoring and litter prevention is available here.