Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to find the answers to your litter-related queries!


What is litter?

Litter refers to items, for example bottles, cans, food packaging, chewing gum and cigarette butts, which have been dropped, thrown down, left of deposited in a public place. Litter negatively impacts how our local parks, beaches, pavements and verges look and feel, is harmful to our local wildlife and is often transported by rain and wind into local waterways, ultimately ending up as pollution in our oceans.

What are the most commonly littered items?

According to a 2017/18 Keep Britain Tidy survey the most commonly littered item is cigarette butts, which were found on 79% of surveyed sites.

The top 10 most commonly littered items were found to be:

  1. Smoking related litter

  2. Confectionery packs

  3. Soft drink bottles and cans

  4. Fast-food related

  5. Alcoholic drinks bottles and cans

  6. Packaging

  7. Snack packs

  8. Vehicle parts

  9. Discarded food and drink

  10. Clothing

Is it illegal to litter?

It is a criminal offence to litter in public spaces and people caught littering can be issued a fixed penalty charge or face prosecution in court.

  • Fixed penalty charge: In Dorset, authorised officers have the power to fine the offender up to £100 for a litter offence

  • Prosecution: If the offender is prosecuted and convicted in court, the fine can be increased up to £2,500

For further information, see Part IV of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act and Part 3 of the 2005 Clean Neighbourhoods act.

How are litter laws enforced?

In the UK, local authorities, the police and other primary litter authorities are responsible for litter law enforcement and have the power to prosecute litter offenders.

The 1990 Environmental Protection Act recognises duty bodies that manage land with public access as legally responsible for keeping the land clear of litter and refuse. These duty bodies include crown authorities, principal litter authorities, local authorities (for highways they manage) and parish councils and governing bodies of designated educational institutions.

If litter is dropped on private land, it is the owner or occupier of the land that is held responsible for keeping the land clear of litter and refuse.

Click here to see the DEFRA Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.

What can I do to reduce litter issues in Dorset?

Please refrain from littering – act responsibly and dispose of your litter properly! Please put your rubbish in a bin, or take it home with you to dispose of there.

If you come across any incidents of litter (including dog fouling), fly-tipping, or overflowing public bins, please report it to Dorset Council by clicking here.

Get involved in a local community litter pick! Dorset has many different community litter picking and beach cleaning groups who welcome new volunteers all the time. Click here to find out more information.

Litter picking

Please note: due to the the current pandemic, Litter Free Dorset are not loaning out litter picking equipment
How can I get involved in litter picking in my local area?

In Dorset, there are many local community litter-picking and beaching cleaning groups who organise weekly and monthly litter picks and are always recruiting and welcoming new volunteers. Click here to find your closest group.

Alternatively, organise your own community litter pick! Check out our webpage to find out more information on first steps, preparation, safety and useful resources to help run your own litter pick.

There isn’t an active litter picking group in my area, how do I start my own community litter picking group?

Litter Free Dorset has compiled some useful resources to help you organise your own litter pick. We also have litter picking equipment available to loan. Click here to find out more.

Dorset Council also has some useful guidance which can be found by clicking here.

What equipment would you recommend for litter picking?

Litter Free Dorset recommends the use of a litter picker, cut resistant gloves, a durable, strong bag and a high-vis jacket to conduct a litter pick safely.

All of this equipment is low-cost and can be easily purchased online

However, we do offer out equipment (hoops, litter pickers and high vis) for organised litter picking events. Get in touch with us at to enquire.

Changing habits

What are some simple ways to become ‘plastic clever’ and help reduce plastic pollution?

Although it is inspiring to see people going entirely plastic free, it can be overwhelming and daunting. Being ‘Plastic Clever’ means knowing when to use plastic and when to avoid it. Keeping these items in your bag can help reduce how much single-use plastic you’re using:

  • Reusable drinks bottle

  • Hot drink flask

  • Lunchbox

  • Cutlery

You can also make a big impact with small changes to your shopping habits:

  • Choose loose fruit and vegetables where possible

  • Take plastic containers for your meat and fish

  • Use reusable shopping bags

Replace your cling-film with beeswax wraps

Why not try to repurpose some of your waste? Get creative and turn your tetrapak cartons into seed starters, your cardboard boxes into canvas to paint on and your corks into a notice board!

Bins & Waste

Where does Dorset’s waste go?

  • Black bag rubbish goes to be used for Energy From Waste, where rubbish is burned under strictly controlled conditions.

  • Food waste is taken to Piddlehinton to an Anaerobic Digestor which produces biogas.

  • Recycling is bulked up and sent to North Wales where it is mechanically sorted before being sent to various reprocessors across the country.

  • Glass is sent to our reprocessors across the UK to be made into new items.

  • Garden waste is taken to a composting facility near Hurn in Bournemouth.

What goes in what bin?

Dorset Council Waste Services provides each household with separate bins and boxes to separate waste items into rubbish, recycling and food waste.

Click here to see what goes in which bin.

What do I do with extra recycling that won't fit in my recycling bin?

You can put out extra recycling if it is contained in a recyclable cardboard box, which the crew will also collect. Cardboard boxes can often be collected for free from supermarkets if you don’t currently have one.

Food and drink packaging

What does the number in the triangle on packaging mean/should I look at it?

The triangle and number on packaging is mainly for the producers and re-processors to use, showing the specific type of plastic. However, the numbers can’t be used to say which items can and can’t be recyclable due to overlaps between the categories. To find out exactly which items go in which bin, click here to see the Dorset Council Waste Service website.

Can plastic film be recycled?

Plastic films (and carrier bags) are unable to be recycled by Dorset Council’s recycling service. However, they can be recycled at carrier bag collection points at larger supermarket stores. Click here to find your closest carrier bag collection point, plus more info on recycling plastic film.

Are compostable coffee cups recyclable?

Unfortunately, these are not recyclable. By their nature, compostable plastics are designed to break down, not to be recycled. Compostable cups can only be broken down in industrial ‘in-vessel- composters, which we do not have access to in Dorset. We greatly encourage people to use a reusable coffee cup or flask, and many cafes now offer a discount for using one.

Can black plastics be recycled?

Black plastics can be put in the recycling bin. Currently, black plastics are separated then used for energy from waste. Reprocessor machines (light based technology which separates plastic types) are unable to detect black plastic. However the quantity of black plastic packaging is reducing with supermarkets introducing alternative colours to help over come this problem.

Why can’t I recycle tetra Pak in household recycling?

Tetrapak cartons are made up of foil, cardboard and wax which are very hard to separate. However, you can take tetrapaks to our carton banks located over Dorset. Click here to find you nearest carton bank.

Can I leave lids on plastic bottles?

Yes, please squash the bottles then put the lid back on before putting them in your recycling bin.

What bin does foil go in?

Foil can either go in your general rubbish bin, or be taken to our foil banks around Dorset. Click here to find your nearest foil bank.

Food waste

Why should I recycle my food waste and not put it in the rubbish bin?

We pay to dispose of general rubbish by the tonne. Food waste is very heavy and so costs a lot more in tax-payers money to dispose of if put in the general rubbish bin.

One fifth of Dorset’s rubbish in weight is still food. Recycling your food waste is three times less expensive than sending it to landfill. Rotting food in landfill generates methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming and climate change.

How is my food waste recycled?

Food waste collected at the kerbside is taken to a processing plant called an anaerobic digester. Natural decomposition takes place under oxygen free conditions using bacteria and microscopic bugs to break down the food and organic materials. This generates renewable energy and a nutrient-rich soil improver.

What are the benefits of home composting?

Composting is an inexpensive natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. It’s easy to make and use

Composting at home for just one year can save the same amount of energy that your kettle uses annually, or your washing machine uses in three months.

Other recycling FAQs

How can I recycle batteries?

Household batteries and rechargeable batteries can be recycled at your local household recycling centre and also at leading supermarkets.

They can also be collected at the kerbside with your regular recycling collection, as long as they are placed in a reusable battery bag provided by Dorset Council Waste Services. The bag will be emptied and returned with your recycling bins. Click here to request a battery bag.

How can I recycle ink cartridges?

Ink cartridges can be recycled at your local household recycling centre.

Empty ink cartridges can also be recycled by donating them to charity – click here for more info.

Are envelopes with plastic windows recyclable?

Yes, you do not need to remove the plastic window from envelopes to recycle them.

Where can I dispose of ‘worn out’ clothing/shoes/belts/bags, that cannot be donated to a charity shop?

Worn out or torn clothing can be put in textiles recycling banks, found in car parks around Dorset. Please put the clothing in a plastic bag when putting it in the bank. Find your nearest bank here


What is fly-tipping?

Fly-tipping refers to the illegal dumping of any waste products, onto land that does not have a license to accept it, e.g. next to a road, in a field or river.

In Dorset, most fly-tips consist of household waste that could have been taken to a household recycling centre and disposed of completely free of charge, for example garden waste, furniture, household rubbish and electrical appliances.

How should I dispose of bulky waste?

In Dorset, bulky waste, for example, refrigerators, mattresses and other large appliances, can be disposed of at Dorset Council’s Household Recycling Centres. If you are unable to transport your waste to a HRC, you can book a bulky waste collection through Dorset Reclaim. Click here to find out more.

How should I dispose of garden waste?

In Dorset, garden waste can be disposed of at Dorset Council’s Household Recycling Centres or can be collected via Dorset Council Waste Services garden waste collection service. Click here to find out more and apply for a garden waste bin.

Can I pay someone to take my rubbish away?

Rubbish you’ve handed to someone else is still your legal responsibility until it is correctly disposed of. If someone – such as an unlicensed ‘man in a van’ found online – were to fly-tip that waste, you could end up paying a fine or being taken to court. Click here to find out more.

What should I do if I see a fly-tip?

If you see a fly-tip, make a note of where it is, take a picture if you can, and note down any other details. Never touch the waste or confront fly-tippers. Report the fly-tip to Dorset Council online or phone 01305 221040.

Click here to report a fly-tip online and more information.

How are fly-tipping laws enforced?

Local authorities, other enforcement agencies and the Environment Agency work in partnership to combat fly-tipping. Both local authorities and the Environment Agency have enforcement powers to help tackle fly-tipping. Click here to find out more.

Still have questions?

Please get in touch with us if you have any further questions – we love to hear from you!