Litter louts will face Singapore-style on-the-spot fines of up to £150 from today as part of government plans to clamp down on the scourge of rubbish dumped on Britain’s streets.
Councils have been handed powers to hike littering penalties to nearly double the current £80 level, and for the first time drivers will be fined if rubbish is thrown from their car windows.
The new scheme aims to help struggling local authorities, who pay out nearly £700m to keep the streets clean each year, at a time when town hall budgets are increasingly squeezed.
Environment secretary Michael Gove has surprised sceptics with a raft of eye-catching plans to tackle waste in recent months, ranging from a bottle deposit scheme to a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products.
The Independent is urging ministers to enforce a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups, which are very difficult to recycle effectively. More than 2.5 billion takeaway cups are thrown away each year in the UK, according to MPs.
Announcing the plans, environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “These new fines will tackle antisocial behaviour by hitting litter louts in the pocket, whether it’s litter that is thrown from a vehicle or dropped in the street.
“Littering is a scourge on our environment and we waste taxpayers’ money cleaning it up – funds which could be better spent in the community.
“We want to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, and I encourage everyone to take responsibility for their litter and recycle more.”
The default penalty has increased from £75 to £100 and the minimum fine will increase from £50 to £65 next April.
However councils have been warned that they cannot abuse the powers, with new government guidance ordering them to consider local circumstances when setting the prices of fines.
The news was welcomed by town hall leaders, who said the powers will send “a strong message to those who think their laziness is more important than the environment in which they live”.
Cllr Martin Tett, Local Government Association (LGA) environment spokesman, added: “Allowing councils to fine the owners of vehicles which litter is thrown from, rather than expecting councils to prove who exactly in the vehicle had thrown litter, is also something that the LGA has long called for.
“It is great that from April, councils will be able to get tough with the anti-social minority who think our roads are a repository for rubbish.”
Edmund King, president of the AA, also backed the plans, saying his employees were often astonished at the number of plastic bottles, takeaway wrappers and even kitchen sinks discarded at the roadside.
He said: “There is no excuse for car litter louts. Tossing rubbish from vehicles spoils the environment, costs millions and puts road workers’ lives at risk when they have to clear up.
“The majority of our members support higher fines for littering and we welcome these steps to tackle this unnecessary problem.”
The government recently announced that shoppers will be given cash for recycling single-use drinks containers under the latest plans put forward by Mr Gove to clamp down on plastic use.
Under the proposals, people would pay a small fee for plastic bottles that is given back to them when they return the item, or they might be simply given cash when they recycle the bottle.