Keeping Your Council Tidy: Top Tips for Managing Waste in Your Area


Did you know the UK generated 222.9 million tonnes of total waste in 2016, with England responsible for 85% of that?* On top of that, the estimated cost of clearance of fly-tipping to local authorities in England between 2016/17 was a huge £57.7 million.**
Local councils have a wide range of responsibilities, all with the common goal of promoting a clean, comfortable, safe and healthy environment for residents. So, from rubbish collections to recycling and litter to fly-tipping, we’ve put together some tips on managing waste in your local authority.

Collecting rubbish and recycling

When local residents were asked why they recycle, households’ main motivations were ‘to do my bit for the environment’ and ‘the council provides the service so I am doing what I am supposed to.’ However, almost two thirds of households are uncertain over what can be put in the recycling bin and over three quarters add one or more item to their recycling collection that is not accepted locally.
Local councils and authorities must arrange for the collection of household rubbish from residents on a routine basis. Typically, councils have a Waste Collection Authority (WCA) and Waste Disposal Authority (WDA) responsible for the collection and disposal of municipal waste.
o    Be sure that your WCA communicates a collection schedule with residents, including how often they plan to collect waste and what to do if a collection is missed.
o    Ensure all WCA and WDA employees are properly trained and qualified. Regularly monitor waste collection processes to promote timeliness and sanitary standards.
o    Require WDA employees to dispose of waste at licensed landfill sites only. Assess disposal methods to ensure proper health and safety standards and find ways to minimise adverse impacts on the environment. If possible, consider implementing a separate recycling collection service.
o    For more government information on waste collection and disposal, click here.

Removing litter and refuse

In 2016/17 it cost local authorities £682 million or £29 per household to keep our streets clean.* Local councils and authorities are responsible for keeping all local roads and ‘relevant’ land clear of litter and refuse. Relevant land being categorised as “open to the air on at least one side, under the council’s direct control and publicly accessible”.
Councils usually have a litter authority in charge of maintaining these requirements. The good news is, residents want to help too. In 2017 for example, there were 303,000 volunteers Great British Spring Clean!
o    Ensure your litter authority follows the code of practice on litter and refuse. This code explains how different types of land should be kept clear. For government guidance on creating an anti-littering campaign, click here.
o    Councils can issue various penalties to people responsible for littering. If someone drops litter on land or water that is accessible to the public, your authority can issue a fixed penalty notice. You can also issue public space protection ordersfor litter or refuse problems in public areas, such as the control of dogs (i.e. requiring dog owners to clean up after their dog’s waste). Lastly, your council can issue community protection notices to businesses that fail to clear litter from their premises.  
o    In order to safely clear litter and refuse from local highways, your authority must warn approaching traffic using signs or barriers while cleaning and follow instructions from highway authorities regarding when cleaning can be done. If refuse is blocking the road, your council should either remove it immediately (if it is an immediate danger to road users) or issue the owner of the object with a notice to remove it within a set time (if it is not an immediate danger).
o    For more government guidance on litter and refuse management, click here.

Handling fly-tipping

Illegally dumping liquid or solid waste on land or in water to avoid disposal costs—also known as fly-tipping—must be addressed, and waste must be disposed of by your local council if it occurs on relevant land.
Local Authorities dealt with over 1 million incidents of fly-tipping in 2016/17 in England, a 7 per cent increase on 2015/16.**
o    In the case of small-scale fly-tipping incidents, your local council must handle investigation costs and treat the issue as a littering offence.
o    Contact the Environment Agency (EA) if the illegally dumped waste is more than 20 tonnes, more than 5 cubic metres of fibrous asbestos or 75 litres of potentially hazardous waste in drums or containers, or possibly linked to criminal activity.
o    Report any fly-tipping incidents that contain asbestos to the HSE.
o    For further government information on handling fly-tipping incidents, click here.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires local councils and authorities to take practicable action against various environmental concerns within their area, such as managing waste properly. What’s more, your local council could experience significant consequences if you fail to address your environmental responsibilities. Apart from destroyed land or property and ill or upset residents, ignoring environmental requirements could lead to costly regulatory fines, reputational downfall and a long list of liability concerns. Consider the latest guidance to reduce your local council’s environmental liability exposure.
How are you helping to tackle waste and manage recycling in your local area? Let us know over on Twitter @bhibcouncils

The content of this article is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. © 2019 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

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Clear Councils Insurance provides specialist insurance solutions for Local and Parish Councils. As part of Clear Insurance Brokers, we have been delivering professional insurance and risk management guidance to our customers for over 50 years.

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