Littering and dumping

Introduction

Litter is 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 local authorities can impose penalties on people who litter. The Gardaí can also issue on-the-spot fines for litter offences.

Who is responsible for keeping places litter-free?

Local authorities and litter prevention

Local authorities are responsible for keeping public places under their control, clear of litter. Their duties include:

  • Street cleaning
  • Providing and emptying litter bins
  • Taking legal action against people who break or ignore the law

Local authorities also:

  • Prepare litter management plans, in consultation with the local community. A plan must set out how the local authority will prevent and control litter and make people more aware of litter
  • 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

Litter and public places

If you own or are responsible for a place that is open to the public you have a legal duty to keep the place litter-free, regardless of how the litter got there. These public places include, for example, school campuses, public parks, train or bus stations, and the area around shopping centres.

Dog fouling

Dog owners are responsible for removing their dog’s waste from public places and disposing of it properly. Find out more about the control and ownership of dogs.

Litter and private property

If you own or occupy property, the outdoor areas on your property that are visible from a public place must be kept free of litter. You can be fined or prosecuted by your local authority if you don’t do this.

Litter blackspots

If you let litter build up in an area that is visible from a public place, the local authority can issue a notice requiring you to remove the litter. If you fail to comply with the notice, the local authority can do whatever is necessary to remove the litter and you will have to pay the costs for this.

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 an event. The local authority can do this for them, 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 100 metre radius.

Littering rules for posters, signs, flyers and plastic bags

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 of 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, Climate and Communications has more information on the rules on election posters.

Advertising flyers

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.

Plastic bags

Retailers who supply plastic bags must charge customers a levy on each shopping bag. This is to encourage the use of reusable bags and change attitudes on littering. Revenue generated from the levy goes into the Environment Fund.

The charge is 22 cent per bag and this must be itemised on any invoice, till receipt or docket you receive. Reusable shopping bags are exempt from the levy, provided the retailer charges at least 70 cent for the bag.

To make a complaint about a retailer who is not charging for plastic bags, you should contact the Environmental Awareness Officer of your local authority. Find out more about the plastic bag levy.

Littering fines

Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence. You can get an on-the-spot fine of €150, or a maximum fine of €4,000 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 a conviction, you may be fined up to €600 for every day you continue to litter. If you are convicted of a litter offence, you may have to pay the local authority’s legal costs.

There are on-the-spot fines of up to €130,000 for causing environmental pollution, and €10,000 per day for continuing offences.

How do I report illegal dumping?

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 find out who owns material that has been illegally dumped, the owner can 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.

Getting household rubbish collected

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. Burning household waste in your garden or home is illegal. Find out more about disposing of household waste.

Further information

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.

Note that litter control is an important element of the Tidy Towns competition.

Page edited: 14 April 2021