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Why we all need to talk rubbish

Posted on 10 April 2017

I was on the bus going home last week when I saw something that even the soothing sounds of Take That couldn’t stop me from scowling at.

As we stopped in traffic, a person walking down the street simply threw an empty water bottle in a passing bush – and carried on without a care.

It was a seamless motion. In fact, the aim was perfect. Despite my unlikely skill of being quite nifty with a basketball, I was not impressed.

I was thoroughly annoyed.

Statistics and strategy

I loathe littering – it’s definitely something I would put into Room 101. It causes vermin, is a hazard to animals and just looks ugly. It’s one of those things that I simply don’t understand why people do it. As my mum always used to say when I was younger, if there isn’t a bin, put it in your pocket or keep it to you find one. 

The Government released a report today entitled the 'Litter Strategy for England' that pinpoints how they are going to start tackling the litter problem in our towns and cities.

The statistics throughout the report spoke for themselves…

  • 1 in 5 people admit to 'consciously' dropping litter
  • Street cleaning cost local government £778m in 2015/16
  • The National Crime Survey has found that 28-30% of people perceive “litter and rubbish lying around” to be a problem in their area
  • 81% of people are angry and frustrated by the amount of litter lying all over the country
  • Last year the RSPCA received over 5,000 phone calls about litter-related incidents affecting animals

To me, those figures are staggering – but the most inspiring figure is that 81% of people are angry about the amount of rubbish cluttering up their streets.

The Government has laid out a three-point strategy to start tackling littering across England, emphasising the importance of instilling behaviour change through education (messages aimed at the population on why it’s important we don’t litter), enforcement (both legal and peer pressure) and infrastructure (ensuring that the local set-up allows for success, i.e. enough litter bins).

One Government initiative is to sentence those found guilty of fly-tipping to community service, so they can help pick up the rubbish they have contributed to. Fixed penalties for anyone caught littering - higher for those who are caught fly-tipping - is also part of the strategy to help stop litterers in their tracks.

Local-led action

Groundwork works with Community and 'Friends of' groups up and down the UK to help them in their mission to make their community a better, cleaner place to live. I’ve seen first-hand the dedication that these groups have on tackling the litter problems in their area by arranging and partaking in regular litter picks in local parks and green spaces. It's simply lovely - and emphasises even more that it's the small changes that we all can make that are the most important to ensure that our local areas are litter free.

Our environment – especially our local environment – has a big impact on our quality of life. If places are cleaner, then people love and respect them more. They are healthier to live in and more welcoming to visitors. 

In order for any success, change must happen at a local level. I would like to hope that this new Government strategy will provide a bedrock of support help local communities in their efforts for a cleaner, safer environment - and curb the enthusiasm of regular litterbugs.

Post by Stacey Aplin

PR and Communications Officer - Groundwork UK