The legal definition of 'litter' extends from small bits of paper or cigarette ends to anything (whether large or small) that is, or is likely to become, unsightly. The Litter Pollution Act 1997 provides for penalties for people who litter.
Local authorities are responsible for keeping public places that are under their control, including public roads, clear of litter as far as is practicably possible. This includes arranging cleansing programmes, as well as providing and emptying litter bins. They can take enforcement action against people who break or ignore the law. The Gardaí also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines for litter offences.
Each local authority must prepare a litter management plan for its area, setting out its objectives to prevent and control litter, along with measures to encourage public awareness of litter. The plan must also set out measures and arrangements by which the local authority intends to achieve these objectives. In preparing its litter management plan, the authority must consult with local community and voluntary interests.
The National Litter Monitoring System collates litter pollution surveys carried out by local authorities and measures the changes over time. Litter control is an important element of the Tidy Towns competition. Local authority grants are available for anti-litter and anti-graffiti awareness projects.
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 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 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.
On-the-spot fines can be issued by a litter warden appointed by the local authority or by a Garda. If you are convicted of a litter offence, the court may also require you to pay the local authority's costs and expenses in investigating the offence and any costs incurred in bringing the prosecution.
If you either own or are responsible for a place to which the public has access, for example, 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.
If you are the owner or occupier of property, any outdoor area on your property that is visible from a public place must be kept free of litter. Failure to do this can result in a fine or prosecution by your local authority.
Where litter has accumulated on property for any reason and is visible from a public place, the local authority can issue a notice to the owner or occupier requiring its prompt removal. Such a notice can also set down precautionary measures to be taken to prevent a reoccurrence. If the owner or occupier does not fully comply with the notice, the local authority can do whatever is necessary itself and require the owner or occupier to pay all of the costs involved.
The promoters or organisers of major events, such as football matches, music festivals etc., are required to ensure that litter control measures are in place at the venue and in the surrounding vicinity before, during and after the event. The local authority can undertake this task but the promoter or organiser must bear the costs involved.
Operators of mobile food outlets selling fast food or beverages, or other outlets such as those selling farm produce, must provide suitable litter bins in the vicinity of their outlets. They must also clean up any litter arising from the outlet’s operation within a radius of 100 metres.
If you are aware of illegal dumping, you can report it to the local authority, so that it can investigate and take any necessary enforcement action. Alternatively, you can report it to the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line – see ‘Where to apply’ below. Details of the complaint will be passed to the local authority, the Garda Síochána or the Environmental Protection Agency, as appropriate.
If a local authority can establish who owns material that has been illegally dumped, the owner has a case to answer, even if they haven’t been caught in the act of dumping. In addition, local authorities can require a householder or business operator to indicate how and where they are disposing of their waste. This can be relevant if the person does not use a refuse collection service or bring their waste to an authorised disposal facility.
Dog owners must remove their pets' waste from public places and dispose of it in a proper manner. This obligation applies to the following places:
Read more about the responsibilities of dog owners in our document on control of dogs.
It is illegal to put up posters or signs on poles or other structures in public places, unless you have the written permission of the owner of the pole or other structure before you put them up. Any article or advertisement must carry the name and address of the person:
Following an election, a party or candidate must remove posters within 7 days. If they are not removed within this period, the local authority will remove them and issue an on-the-spot fine of €150 in respect of each offence. If a party or 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.
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.
Refuse should be placed in a wheelie-bin or other sturdy refuse bin for collection, or else in strong plastic bags. It should not be left out too long before the collection is due, as it may attract birds or animals and create litter.
It is an offence to dispose of your household refuse in street litter bins. If you do this, you face prosecution by the 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
For information about litter policies in your area, or to apply for grant aid for an anti-litter awareness project, contact your local authority, contact your local authority.
To report illegal dumping, contact the local authority or call the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line on 1850 365 121.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.