Ministers are proposing changes to the law by which householders can be fined by councils for misuse of their domestic rubbish.
A consultation has been launched by Defra to stop councils penalising households that overfill their bins or accidentally leave their rubbish out on the wrong day.
Action will be permitted only if a council can prove that a household is causing ‘harm to local amenity’ by putting out rubbish wrongly.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: “We want to see people helping us to boost recycling rates by putting out their rubbish correctly, but bullying them with fines is not the way to do it. This consultation will mean that only those causing real problems for their community will get punished.”
Under the current system, councils have the power to issue fixed penalty notices of up to £110, or push for criminal convictions and a fine of up to £1,000.
Waste minister Lord Taylor has written to all councils about plans to make interim changes to reduce the level of penalties to as little as £40 from this Spring.
The interim cut in the range of fixed penalties will be 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.
The intention to reduce penalties for incorrectly putting out household waste for collection was set out in the Waste review, published in June 2011.
The existing powers and penalties are outlined in section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The changes proposed in this consultation will apply in England only and the consultation closes on 9 March.