Businesses to clean up after customers and employees

Fast food joints and office blocks where workers huddle around smoking on the doorstep could find themselves subject to new litter laws if Government proposals are adopted.

In an effort to tackle bight littering, Defra is considering broadening the range of premises which could be held accountable for the litter produced by their workers or customers.

If the proposals are adopted, pubs, clubs, restaurants, take-aways and offices would all be possible targets for Street Litter Control Notices which would make litter such as cigarette ends and food wrappers the responsibility of the business concerned, rather than the local authority.

Councils would be able to force force occupiers or owners of the premises to clear up the litter in the immediate area and install suitable bins or face a fixed penalty notice.

That notice would be restricted to a maximum of £110 but could be applied repeatedly if the issue is not addressed.

Fixed penalty notices of up to £80 already exist for individuals but the new proposals would see them rolled out to cover corporations too.

Interestingly, and perhaps most relevant for offices, cigarette butts would be covered by the law after being specifically defined as litter in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act of 2005.

A snapshot-survey of littered sites carried out by Defra found cigarette ends in over three quarters of the locations it checked, and the problem is set to become worse after July 1 when, under the Health Act 2006, it will become illegal to smoke in most enclosed workplaces.

Defra is already taking steps to reduce smoking litter, working with a range of partners to raise public awareness, encourage voluntary action, and disseminate information and good practice, as well as considering regulatory measures.

The 12-week consultation closes on May 8 and is published online on Defra’s website.

Sam Bond

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