Street cleansing costs UK taxpayers almost £1 billion per year in England alone, and that is just the monetary cost of litter; it also impacts upon community wellbeing and mental health, wildlife, local business, tourism, and the environment.
Furthermore, it encourages other anti-social behaviours.
Despite the best efforts of local councils, there are still many spots around Yorkshire (and further afield) where litter builds up – after all, 62% of people in England drop litter, although only 28% admit to it, and councils have a budget to work within.
However, it’s been found that 57% of people in England feel that litter is a problem in their area.
Is it an issue in your area?
If so and you’d like to take action as an individual, a community group or a business, we’ll outline how litter impacts local businesses, how to organise a litter pick, and how to source litter picking equipment in this blog post.
Litter is a real buzzword at the moment, with plastic litter being the central focus. Thanks to Sir David Attenborough’s recent documentaries, people’s eyes are now being opened to the true extent of the world’s plastic dependence and the related litter problem.
Shocking as the sight of all the litter was on these shows and in newspapers of late, it was the impact the waste had on the wildlife that really helped to highlight the issue.
Seemingly quite pivotal viewing, the video below shows just some of the ways that Blue Planet 2 inspired people to make changes in their lives.
In fact, it is estimated that one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die annually as a result of eating plastic or getting trapped in it.
Councils across the country have been given the power to increase their local on-the-spot littering and graffiti fines to £150. This means the fines have almost doubled from the previous maximum fine amount of £80.
Collecting England’s litter costs the taxpayer almost £700m per year, so these fixed penalty fines go towards replenishing that cost for our local councils.
It is alleged that a large group of travellers has recently been illegally collecting waste from people who paid to have their waste removed, then fly-tipping it where they were parked up, near the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
A study conducted by Keep Britain Tidy’s Centre for Social Innovation has found that the presence of large and brightly coloured litter leads to further littering by others, as people feel it must be socially acceptable in the area they are in. The research also showed that if an area is free from this bold litter, it is less likely that people will litter there.
The ‘Beacons of Litter’ social experiment was conducted in two locations: Stourbridge in the West Midlands and Stoke Newington in north-east London. Within each location, three areas were cleaned up; one area was kept clean, one had ‘beacon’ items planted in it (large/brightly coloured litter), and one had smaller items of litter planted in it, such as small pieces of paper and tissues.
All of the areas were then monitored for litter and human behaviour regarding litter, with observations in this study totalling 72 hours. The experiment was conducted six times within a two-week time period at each location.
The Big Scoop campaign has kicked off this week; organised by Dog’s Trust and Keep Britain Tidy, this campaign aims to highlight how easy it is to scoop your dog’s poop, and appeals to dog owners to do just that. The Big Scoop will support local councils, and educate dog owners. A survey conducted recently in Cardiff showed that the general public dislike dog mess more than general litter or people smoking in public, making dog poo the nation’s biggest bugbear.
The UK is home to over 8 million canines, who produce over 1000 tonnes of waste between them every day – that weighs as much as 200 double-decker buses! Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if all of the mess was scooped up, but this is sadly far from the truth.
Alex Jackson, who is Head of Campaigns at Dogs Trust, says:
“Dog poo is still one of the biggest complaints received by local councils every year, with 81,000 complaints received from members of the public last year alone, so it’s important that everyone is aware of how simple disposing of dog mess can be.”
Owners who don’t scoop their dog’s poop are breaking the law, and face an £80 fine if caught. The problem is ‘if caught’; many irresponsible dog owners who don’t scoop, commit the act when nobody is about, or by cover of darkness, knowing they will get away with it.
But why do we dislike dog poo so much? And why should we clear it up straight away from our streets, paths, and parks? We explore the reasons below.
It has been estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Whilst this may sound shocking to some, I imagine it is not a big surprise to the Canal and River Trust team who have been rolling out their huge restoration and repairs programme (worth £45m) recently, which has involved a four month long survey of litter. Even when not running this programme, the Trust spend an average of £1m per year on removing rubbish from British waterways; money which could, of course, be much better spent.
What has been found in our waterways?
Alongside the usual litter offenders, such as plastic packaging, bottles, cigarette butts, and plastic shopping bags, the Canal and River Trust have pulled the following items out of our waterways in recent years:
It’s a little known fact that us Brits wear just 70 per cent of the clothes that we have stored away in our wardrobes, which leaves us with a total of 1.7 billion unused items. On average, a consumer keeps their garments for three years, but even more shocking than this is the fact that something might be frequently worn in the first year, and then phased into the stockpile of unworn clothes later on. That is why the average British closet is so overstuffed: we don’t wear all of the clothes we own.
The spending habits of the average person in the West have changed dramatically over the last hundred or so years when it comes to buying clothing. Between 2002 and 2003, for example, people in the US spent, on average, four per cent of their income on clothes, whereas back between the years of 1934 and 1946, clothing used up 12 per cent of people’s incomes. The current average expenditure per item in the USA is $14.60. Don’t go thinking that we are all consuming less though. On average, just one person in the UK will produce 70 Kg of textiles waste per year – that is a lot of clothing. Cheap, fast fashion means we are spending less yet buying more.