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.
Whether you have visited Japan or not, you will have no doubt heard that Japan is perceived as a very neat and clean country. Visitors are often taken aback by the lack of litter – especially in cities, which conversely seem to have an absence of rubbish bins in which to place said litter. This article looks at how Japan reached this level of cleanliness, how it is maintained, if it is true of all of Japan, and what we can learn from this to tackle the UK’s litter problem.
Japan’s clean streets
Japan currently has a 77% recycling rate as a nation; compared to just 20% in the USA and around 36% in the UK. These figures alone show how committed to recycling Japan is, and this passion for waste management seems to pass over into litter too.
There are occasional road signs in Japan telling people to take their rubbish home with them, and that, it seems, is all that is required. There aren’t signs everywhere in public places, threatening fines. There are no huge anti-litter campaigns. People just take their waste home with them, and that’s that!
Japanese culture contributes greatly to this litter-free environment. The Japanese don’t really do ‘eating on the go’, which can contribute to a lot of litter in other countries. Alongside this, as a people, the Japanese generally have a large concern about what others think of them – because of this, they would not want to be seen in the street to be littering or not recycling.
Japan’s lack of street litter is particularly interesting and impressive, as residents have to pay to have home rubbish collected; they purchase designated bags for their waste, which they then have to take to a collection point. This combined with the lack of public bins would, in the UK, cause a huge litter problem I am sure!
World Cup 2014
After their team lost a World Cup football match against Argentina last summer, the Japanese fans made the news worldwide by cleaning up the Brazilian stadium before they left. This wasn’t an organised effort; this is simply what the Japanese do. It is a shame that it was so newsworthy, but it really was quite shocking behaviour, and entirely admirable. They collected all types of litter, from abandoned plastic bottles to tiny pieces of confetti.
Japan’s culture & the background of waste
Before the 20th century, Japanese culture focused on reuse, and very little waste was created. Many items were made from wood, and were built to last. When they broke, they were repaired. People collected scrap bits of paper littering roads, which was then turned into toilet paper.
During the 20th century, rapid economic growth led to mass production of disposable items. This huge change caused problems with waste levels, which in turn caused large environmental issues. Also, it was realised that Japan does not have a lot of room for landfill. Combined, this caused a change in thinking. Authorities pressed moral and environmental issues onto their people, and progress in recycling began. Since the year 2000 in particular, the Japanese have been very conscious of waste and recycling. Laws have kept businesses up to date with recycling too.
Nowadays, Japanese school children are encouraged to clean up after themselves from a young age; they are put into teams and they clean up classrooms and hallways in their schools using a rota system. This instills morals regarding waste and litter from the very start.
The hidden Japanese litter problem
Despite all of the above information, I must admit that Japan isn’t perfect; litter does occur outside nightspots on a weekend, thanks to drunk salarymen, tourists and locals who don’t care about societal norms – although it is usually quickly cleared up. But some litter isn’t picked up, and it’s this litter that makes its way into Japan’s waterways and eventually, the sea.
Many of Japan’s beaches are littered with a mix of litter dropped on the sand by sunbathers, and litter washed up from the sea. Does this litter prove that the Japanese aren’t so well behaved regarding litter and recycling when nobody is watching?
What can the UK learn from Japan?
Unfortunately, many aspects of the Japanese approach to waste and litter management wouldn’t work in the UK. As mentioned above, if our councils charged us to collect our rubbish – and not even from our homes – there would be uproar. There would also be a dramatic increase in littering and fly-tipping. Cutting down on bins would have much the same effect.
Sadly, the cultural difference means Japan’s tactics aren’t very transferable. How nice it would be, however, if us Brits could take a leaf out of Japan’s book – dropping less litter and picking up the litter of others would be a great place to start.
Litter is a worldwide problem, but what about closer to home; specifically, what about Bradford? What actions are the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council taking to tackle litter? Bradford’s street cleaning teams remove over 10,000 tonnes of litter annually from its public areas, including over 200 bags from the city centre alone daily, and so this year the Council have decided to crackdown on this. Here’s how:
In March this year, the Council decided they would start fining residents who have dirty, litter-strewn front or back gardens / areas outside of their property. This was decided in the hope that people dumping rubbish in their own gardens would stop it, and people having to pick up other peoples’ rubbish from their gardens would be more likely to report the offenders if they are forced to clear it themselves. The fine for a filthy garden full of litter is up to £2,500, however you are given a written warning before it goes before a court.
Whilst I understand the theory behind this new fine, I have concerns it will lead to fly tipping; something which is already a large problem in the Bradford area. In fact, fly tipping already costs the District Council around £228,500 a year to clear.
Residents who litter in the street are fined £75 on the spot, if they are caught. This includes dropping chewing gum, cigarette butts, fast food containers, and anything out of a car window. Food containers are a growing litter issue, with a quarter of Britain’s streets littered with them.
This street litter fine has been in place for years, however, members of the public are now being urged to report anyone they see dropping litter. You can do so directly on Bradford Council’s website.
Litter awareness courses are offered to young people who are unable to pay the fine, but considering the majority of people being caught dropping litter are teenagers, this is leading to few actual fines being handed out. Is an educational course going to put people off littering? I guess time will tell.
Cigarette butt litter
Earlier this month, the local Council started a crackdown on people who drop their cigarettes in the street; this is the UK’s largest litter problem, with 78% of all litter being cigarette butts.
The overall problem with cigarette butts is that those who are dropping them don’t tend to view them as litter. Educational lamp post signs and targeted posters are being put up around Bradford city centre, and business owners are being asked to display posters and inform colleagues and customers about the importance of the ‘Bin Your Butts’ campaign. Until people see butts as litter, they’ll continue to drop them – putting drains and local wildlife at risk, as well as costing the Council a fortune, and making the streets look ugly.
Summer is here in the UK, and for some of us this means only one thing: festival season is upon us. Music festivals (and others) grow in popularity year on year, and new additions to the circuit get added frequently. We can’t seem to get enough of live music in fields!
Glastonbury Festival started out in 1970 as a festival created under the ethos of hippie counterculture – peace, love and green living. However, is Glastonbury environmentally friendly now? Are any mainstream festivals actually ‘green’? Also, how are festivals going about tackling their litter and environmental problems?
The main challenges festivals face when it comes to keeping it green are:
Litter (including abandoned tents)
Essentially, festival-goers are living in a temporary town/city for a weekend, and so with that comes all the environmental problems a real town would face when overcrowded; lots of litter, danger to wildlife, and high carbon emissions. Plus others, including people toileting where they shouldn’t. Glastonbury in the 1990s became a hazard to fish in the nearby river due to urine-induced high ammonia levels (due to people peeing on the ground). The organisers have, of course, since added many, many more toilets, including lots of compost loos.
The Glastonbury 2015 Clean-Up
Glastonbury 2015 involved a clean-up operation requiring 800 voluntary litter-pickers to collect and sort 1650 tonnes of waste. The entire clean-up cost around £780,000. This waste included 5000 abandoned tents, 9 tonnes of glass, 54 tonnes of plastic bottles & cans, and 41 tonnes of cardboard.
135,000 people on one farm results in quite a lot of waste, and way too much litter! Glastonbury does, however, skip a year every 5 years, to give the natural environment time to recover and replenish from the crowds and their effects.
Dealing With The Problem
Each large festival seems to have their own approach to dealing with green issues, and all appear to be trying – albeit, some a lot more than others.
Most festivals now seem to be aware of their overall carbon footprint and how that is impacted upon by the thousands of people travelling to and from their site. In fact, 68% of the total emissions caused by the average festival come from this travel. To combat this, festivals now promote car-sharing schemes, and the use of public transport. Also, bicycles are suggested, although I imagine that’s not as handy for carrying your tent etc.!
Glastonbury, for one, rewards those revellers who use public transport.
Litter and Water
Leeds and Reading Festival run schemes which encourage people to collect litter or at least bin their own; there’s a 10p cup and water bottle deposit, and collecting a bag full of cans equals 1 free beer at the recycling exchange.
Festivals such as Beat-Herder and Blissfields take a £5 refundable litter bond from attendees, who are expected to collect 1 full bag of rubbish during their stay.
Many festivals have cut down on the use of plastics and some, such as Shambala, have done away with plastic bottles completely – encouraging people to re-use one they bring with them instead.
T In The Park organisers – frustrated at the litter problem, and in particular the abandoned tent issue – launched a huge campaign and asked fashion designer, Iona Crawford, to make a dress from discarded festival tents. This highlighted the problem of discarded tents, and promoted alternative uses for damaged tents if people took them home.
Inherently Green Festivals
Of course, Green Gathering is, as the name suggests, a sustainable festival which is powered entirely by renewable energy; the stages are solar, and wind power is also used. They even run workshops on how to create renewable energy at home, and have speakers from the environmental movement too.
If Green Gathering can manage it, surely the others can follow suit in time? If some go back to their roots, they may rediscover their environmentally friendly ethos and potential solutions.
Yes and no. The problem is that many people still do not think of dropping their cigarette on the floor as dropping litter. In that sense they are invisible.
Sadly, they are very much a real and visible environmental problem for the planet as a whole, our animals and our waterways. They may be small, and therefore seem insignificant, but in bulk they are a big hazard and are wreaking havoc.
Litter may not always be at the forefront of people’s minds in our busy modern world, however statistics – and sometimes a quick glance at the area around you – show that we really do need to take action on this growing problem in the UK. Whilst it is suggested by Keep Britain Tidy that 57% of people in our country believe that litter is a problem in their area, it is people who cause the problem in the first place. And what a big problem it has become.