Councils can issue penalties of up to £400 to householders who fail to check that they have passed their waste to a registered carrier, under new powers which came into force this week (7 January).
The measure is intended to toughen the laws around waste disposal to prevent illegal dumping of material from households, by making it easy for councils to take action against those who have failed to ensure that their waste is handled responsibly.
However, Defra has said that the FPNs should only be applied to the “small minority who cause genuine harm to the local environment.”
Householders already have a duty of care to ensure their waste is passed to a licensed carrier. But, under previous rules, the only option for local authorities to address wrongful behaviour was to take offenders to court – a time consuming and costly process.
Defra says the changes coming into effect this week will provide an ‘alternative to prosecution’.
Householders can check if a waste supplier is registered and properly licensed to handle material by checking the Environment Agency’s database.
Individuals could be liable for an FPN if fly-tipped waste can be traced back to anyone who is found to have failed to take reasonable steps to ensure waste has been handed to an authorised person.
Defra has advised councils that offenders should be given a default penalty of £200 and a maximum penalty of up to £400.
To coincide with the changes, government has also issued guidance to ensure councils use these new powers “proportionately”, which makes clear penalties should not be used as a means of raising money and should not be issued for minor breaches.
In its guidance, Defra states that FPNs should not be given ‘where prosecution through the courts is more appropriate’ – giving examples of: “the deliberate transfer of waste to an unauthorised person in the knowledge that it would be fly-tipped, or when someone is a persistent offender with a record of not paying fixed penalties for environmental offences.”
Sam Corp, head of regulation at the waste industry trade body, the Environmental Services Association, described the step as ‘significant’.
“The proportionate use of fixed penalty notices for householders who have failed in their ‘duty of care’ is a significant measure which should have a real impact by raising awareness of this important responsibility amongst householders.”Sam Corp
He said: “The proportionate use of fixed penalty notices for householders who have failed in their ‘duty of care’ is a significant measure which should have a real impact by raising awareness of this important responsibility amongst householders.
“Government guidance suggests that householders can largely fulfil their duty of care by checking that the person taking their waste away is a ‘registered carrier’. So it is also encouraging that the government’s recently published Resources and Waste Strategy has recognised the need to reform the carriers, brokers, dealers regime, so that householders can actually have confidence that the registered carrier they use will act responsibly.”