Litter prevention and control
Litter means any type of rubbish left lying in an open or public place. It includes everything from cigarette ends to dog fouling and unwanted furniture. The Litter Pollution Act 1997 (as amended in 2017), allows local authorities to impose penalties on people who litter. The Gardaí have the power to issue on-the-spot fines for litter offences.
Local authorities and litter prevention
Local authorities are responsible for keeping public places that are under their control, including public roads, clear of litter as much as possible. Their duties include:
- Street cleaning
- Providing and emptying litter bins
- Taking legal action against people who break or ignore the law
Each local authority must prepare a litter management plan, in consultation with the local community. The plan must set out:
- Objectives to prevent and control litter
- How to achieve these objectives
- How to make people more aware of litter
Local authorities also:
- Carry out litter pollution surveys and send the data to the National Litter Monitoring System, which assesses changes over time
- Offer grants for anti-litter and anti-graffiti awareness projects
The Department of the Environment provides more information on litter pollution and prevention.
Fines for littering
- Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence that can result in an on-the-spot fine of €150, or a maximum fine of €3,000 if you are convicted in the District Court. Local authority litter wardens and the Gardaí can issue on-the-spot fines.
- If you continue littering after conviction, you may be fined up to €600 a day.
- If you are convicted of a litter offence, you may also have to pay the local authority’s legal costs.
The Protection of the Environment Act 2003 introduced on-the-spot fines of up to €130,000 for causing environmental pollution, and €10,000 per day thereafter for continuing offences.
Litter and public places
If you either own or are responsible for a place that is open to the public (for example a school campus, public park, train or bus station, or the area around a shopping centre) you have a legal duty to keep the place litter-free, regardless of how the litter got there.
Litter and private property
If you own or occupy property, you must keep any outdoor area on your property that is visible from a public place free of litter. Failure to do this can result in a fine or prosecution by your local authority.
If you let litter build up in an area that is visible from a public place, the local authority can issue a notice that requires you to remove it. If you fail to comply, the local authority may do whatever is necessary to remove the litter and require you to pay all the costs.
Litter control at major events
The promoters or organisers of major events (such as football matches and music festivals) must ensure that litter control measures are in place around the venue before, during and after the event. The local authority can undertake this task but the promoter or organiser must pay for it.
Mobile food outlets
If you run a mobile food outlet selling drinks or food, or an outlet such as a stall selling farm produce, you must provide suitable litter bins. You must also clean up any litter resulting from your sales, within a radius of 100 metres.
If you notice illegal dumping, you can report it to the local authority, which can then investigate and take action. Alternatively, you can report it to the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line – see ‘Further information’ below. The complaints line will pass your report to the local authority, the Garda Síochána or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as appropriate.
The EPA website provides more information on how to make an environmental complaint.
If a local authority can establish who owns material that has been illegally dumped, the owner may be prosecuted, even if they haven’t been caught in the act of dumping. In addition, local authorities can require you, as a householder or business operator, to say how and where you are disposing of your waste. They can do this if you do not use a refuse collection service or bring your waste to an authorised disposal facility.
You must remove your dog’s waste from public places and dispose of it properly. ‘Public places’ include:
- Public roads and footpaths
- Areas around shopping centres
- School grounds
- Sports grounds
- The immediate area surrounding another person’s house
Read more about the responsibilities of dog owners in our document on control of dogs.
Posters and signs
It is illegal to put up posters or signs on poles or other structures in public places, unless you have written permission in advance from the owner of the pole or structure. Any poster, sign or advertisement must carry the name and address of:
- The person who is promoting or arranging the event being advertised, or
- The person on whose behalf the poster, sign or advertisement is being put up
In the case of election posters, a party or candidate must remove posters within seven days following the election. If posters are not removed within this period, the local authority will remove them and issue an on-the-spot fine of €150 for each offence. If a party or candidate refuses to pay this fine, they can be prosecuted and fined up to €3,000.
The Department of the Environment has more information on the rules on election posters.
If you plan to distribute advertising leaflets in the street, you should first check with the local authority to see if there are any local litter restrictions. It is illegal to place advertising leaflets on car windscreens.
Presenting your refuse for collection
You should put your rubbish in a wheelie-bin or other sturdy refuse bin for collection, or in strong plastic bags. You should not leave it out too long before the collection is due, as it may attract birds or animals and create litter.
It is an offence to put your household waste in street litter bins. If you do this, the local authority may prosecute you.
Tidy Towns annual competition
Note that litter control is an important element of the Tidy Towns competition.
For information about litter policies in your area, or to apply for grant aid for an anti-litter awareness project, contact your local authority.
To report littering or illegal dumping, contact the local authority or call the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line on 1850 365 121.