Browse through and shop our collection of vintage products: t-shirts, posters and magnets to show your support for the work that have do
Litter… what’s all the fuss about?
Rich McIlwain, Acting Chief Executive
It’s a curious thing is litter.
Many people see it, many people blindly walk past it and, of course, some people drop it (around one in five of us on a regular basis).
But most people are disgusted when they actually see someone littering.
And speak to almost anyone about litter and you’ll find yourself engaged in a ten-minute polemic about how it’s outrageous, how it’s definitely getting worse and all manner of solutions for sorting it out (up to ritual public humiliations – tarring and feathering anyone? No, thought not).
But, how can so many of us on the one hand be so complacent about the litter around us and on the other so passionate about sorting it out?
To answer that, I believe you need to consider why litter is an issue in the first place.
I mean – a bit of stuff blowing about on the floor – surely there are bigger problems in the world? For me, the scale of the problem boils down to five things.
Here they are – your ‘five a day’ for litter.
1. I believe people see litter as a symptom of a greater malaise in this country. It betrays a lack of care and understanding for the people and wildlife around us. It demonstrates ignorance and perhaps, at worst, arrogance that says: ‘Why should I care – about anything really that isn’t ultimately about me?’ It’s sometimes followed by that eternal gem: ‘Well, it keeps someone in a job doesn’t it?’ If ever there was a pointless job creation scheme littering has to be it.
2. Litter, waste and natural resources are inter-connected. The mantra goes that litter is waste in the wrong place. I’d go further and say litter is a valuable resource in the wrong place. The majority of litter on the ground could, potentially, be recycled and yet so much ends up being swept up and disposed of in landfill or incineration (if we’re lucky – see 4 below)). If only people placed as much value on the packaging as the product inside, we might start to change behaviour,
3. Litter costs us a fortune to clear up. Local authorities in this country spend around £800 million every year on street cleansing. A good proportion of this could be saved if littering simply didn’t happen. Think how many nurses we could employ through making a saving? Then there are the indirect costs – the impact on house prices, businesses that don’t want to locate in littered, run-down areas. Littering costs us money.
4. Litter is out of sight out of mind. Throw it, walk on, it’s gone – from your world anyway. But, of course, it hasn’t gone. It stays where you threw it, at least for a while. Then it merrily blows around for a bit, maybe across the road, onto that grass verge, down a road drain, into a river, on to a beach or out into the ocean. Drop your litter in the town centre and reacquaint yourself with it at the weekend when you visit the seaside. Of course, the ocean is the ultimate ‘sink’. Some of you will be familiar with the Pacific Gyre, the huge floating rubbish dump in the ocean. It is a shameful indictment of how little many of us care or understand the broader impacts of our actions.
5. Littering is not a victimless crime (and we must remember it is a crime). Fact - people don’t like living in littered places. It impacts on people’s sense of safety, wellbeing and happiness. It’s also an issue of social justice. People in more deprived areas – often with higher population densities - are more likely to be surrounded by litter than people in wealthier areas. And last but not least (and certainly for a passionate advocate of animal rights), the RSPCA reports they receive around 7,000 calls a year related to animals injured by litter. Maybe you recall the images of hedgehogs with their heads stuck in cans or birds wrapped up in plastic and nylon. Littering has its victims.
But what can you do?
You put your rubbish in a bin. (well apart from the odd apple core or banana skin – that’s OK isn’t it? Answer – No). You recycle at home. But the problem doesn’t go away – it’s all just too hard isn’t it? So you walk past it. Sure you get cross, but you’ve no idea where to start in sorting it out, beyond what you do already. It’s just too hard isn’t it?
Well it isn’t. There are loads of people already engaged – those selfless, passionate volunteers who join together to pick up litter around their local areas, determined not to be beaten.
But they need support. Others need to step up.
A complete solution will not happen overnight. It needs more than one person or organisation aligned on a common purpose. It also needs a bit of effort on all our parts. But not much and surely a tiny bit of effort is worth it – if we genuinely care about cleaning up this beautiful country of ours – so that we can all enjoy time outdoors – whether you are shopping ‘up town’, paddling at the beach, or relaxing in the park - without wading through other people’s detritus.
So that’s my own personal analysis of why litter and littering is such a fundamental problem and why so many people do actually care when you find time to speak to them.
Coming next… what is the solution?
Keep Britain Tidy is a registered Charity No. 1071737. Registered as a Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales No. 3496361. Registered office at Elizabeth House, The Pier, Wigan, WN3 4EX.
Please be patient while our server is processing your request.
If you encounter any errors please contact us.