Waste chiefs and council leaders have issued robust defences of existing legal powers to fine residents who repeatedly misuse waste collection services.
Defra’s consultation on proposed changes to laws which govern when councils can fine householders for domestic rubbish misuse (see box), which closed last Friday, has received critical submissions from both waste and council chiefs.
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) said existing fine levels, which go up to £1,000, were entirely justified.
Lowering the threshold would mean offenders would receive “a lower fine than that relevant to the offence”, it said.
The CIWM said it could not back either option in Defra’s consultation on options to replace the current bin fines system because the proposals lacked sufficient detail.
CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “Most councils use fines as a last resort, and it is important that they continue to have the necessary powers to take action against those who persistently contaminate the local environment or compromise recycling by discarding poorly contained rubbish.”
The Local Government Association’s submission said it supported neither option in the consultation “as stated”.
“It does not feel sensible to drastically reduce (or even remove altogether) the powers councils have to ensure residents separate their waste appropriately for recycling at a time when Defra is consulting on increasing the expectations on councils to meet recycling quality standards,” the LGA said.
The LGA also accused ministers of not “giving meaningful consideration” to its proposals for a “harm to local amenity” test.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said on launching the consultation: “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.”
Defra’s bin fine proposals
Ministers have outlined two options to replace the current criminal fines system.
Both options propose councils must be able to prove a household is causing “harm to local amenity” by putting out rubbish wrongly in order to issue a fine.
- Option one: a new system of civil sanctions, but leave in place an underpinning criminal offence. The level of financial penalties would be “brought in line with comparable offences”.
- Option two: move to a system relying exclusively on civil penalties with no underpinning criminal offence and reduce the level of the fines.
The CIWM warned last month the “harm to local amenity” clause could force councils to “jump through onerous hoops” in order to secure sanctions.