The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) has slammed communities secretary Eric Pickles for being “highly provocative” as details of new laws to restrict councils using bin fines are published.
Measures on the “de-criminalisation” of household waste were set out in a draft Deregulation Bill, sponsored by the Cabinet Office as part of the Government drive to cut red tape.
The measures, which only apply to England, only allow a waste collection authority to impose a fine if a resident’s failure to comply with waste disposal measures “has caused, or is or was likely to cause, a nuisance” or “has been, or is or was likely to be, detrimental to any amenities of the locality”.
It will also become a civil sanction, rather than a criminal offence.
A Department for Communities and Local Government statement said it would stop fines being issued for “breaches of confusing, arbitrary and unfair town hall bin rules, such as not closing a bin lid, putting a rubbish bin out at the wrong time, or putting a yoghurt pot into the wrong bin.”
Pickles said he was “reining in the town hall bin bullies”.
But CIWM deputy chief executive Chris Murphy said: “No-one is in favour of disproportionate fines or over-zealous enforcement, and talk of ‘reining in the town hall bin bullies’ is highly provocative and unnecessary. Even more so because evidence strongly suggests that most councils have used fines as a very last resort, if at all.”
Murphy said the CIWM was “disappointed” the Government wanted to abolish the criminal offence and replace it with a civil sanction.
“By removing the underpinning criminal offence, the draft Bill will leave councils without an appropriate recourse in cases of severe and repeated abuse,” he added.
The CIWM also warned against a “continuing lack of clarity around what constitutes ‘nuisance or detriment to the local amenity’.”
Murphy said: “Without clear guidelines on the evidence required to justify enforcement action, waste officers may face some of same challenges already experienced in tackling flytipping.
“It remains unclear at this stage how serious and persistent contamination of recyclables can be addressed under the definition of ‘nuisance or detriment to the local amenity’. By seriously curtailing local authority powers to deter such behaviour, the Government risks undermining the concerted effort by councils and householders in recent years to improve recycling quality and realise the maximum environmental and economic benefits.”
An LGA spokesperson said residents have played a central role in increasing recycling rates over the last decade. But they said “a tiny minority of individuals continue to refuse to muck in and do their bit to boost recycling and help keep our streets clean. Fines are only ever used as a last resort but restricting our ability to impose sanctions would leave councils powerless to tackle this selfish behaviour which impacts on the rest of us.”
“The real focus should be on rewarding residents for their efforts,” added the spokesperson.
Pickles said: “For too long barmy bin rules have allowed local authorities to slap fines on law-abiding people who make innocent mistakes.
“Putting out your rubbish should be a simple process and it is ludicrous that we have a system where a milk carton in the wrong bin, or a wheelie bin a few inches out of place can lead to people facing bigger fines than shoplifters.”
Waste minister Lord de Mauley recently told MRW he supported rewarding householders for good recycling rather than penalising householders for contaminated recycling.
The draft legislation appears to allow waste collection authorities to set their own fines, but if they do not specify it will be set at £60.
Defra consulted on a “harm to local amenity” test last year and an interim measure was put in place restricting the maximum fine councils can give residents for leaving waste out wrongly to £80. The maximum was previously £110.