The problem of litter currently costs the UK economy 1 billion pounds a year to deal with. I decided to join my local group at Lee on the Hampshire coast because I like to take some civic pride in where I live and help improve the look of my neighbourhood. I always say that litter picking is quite therapeutic, as well as good exercise out in the fresh air. Our Lee group has picked up over 1,000 bags of litter in the last 4 years.
Bill Bryson (the author) once suggested that the “country is beautiful from the ankles up”! I might question this but can quite see his point. Whenever I finish an area I like to think it’s a job well done and, if I’m wearing my Litteraction hi-viz jacket, often get thanked for my efforts by passers by.
A difference can be made with a word in the right direction – in the past I have recognised a gap in bin placements – the point being that if there is no bin installed locally, how can people be expected to use them? In each case my criticism met with a positive result and new bin installed. I must admit that Gosport (my local authority) is very good with many bins installed all through the borough, so in theory there should be no excuse for rubbish lying around.
A clean area promotes a “feel good effect” with a sense of a safe, more welcoming neighbourhood that attracts less crime and vandalism. Our members regularly carry out beach and street cleans – during the winter storms we even found a domestic safe washed up on the beach!
Litter decomposition times make interesting reading:- most fruits – 2 months, cigarette butts – 10-12 years, disposable nappy – 550 years and plastic bags – 200-1,000 years. It makes the danger to wildlife, pets and humans very apparent.
How do we remedy the situation? Litterers can be summarised in 3 categories:-
- Wrapper droppers (who often don’t even look for a bin).
- Irresponsible dog owners who don’t clear up at all after their pet - or bag the waste then throw it in the bushes rather than dispose of it thoughtfully. These people really annoy me!
- Rubbish thrown from car windows – no longer the driver’s problem, let someone else deal with it (often plastic bottles or fast food containers).
Where do we go from here? Well, education is important, particularly with children and to this end our group is involved with schools, councils and PCSOs to get the message across, which develops an increased awareness of the environmental consequences of litter.
Enforcement also helps with perhaps instant penalty costs for offenders (should they be ‘grassed up’ to the authorities and, perhaps, named and shamed?) I think that if littering was made socially unacceptable by the general population, it would make a major difference.
If you would like to join us, than please contact Graham Smith (see http://www.litteraction.org.uk/gosport-lee-litteraction) or speak to one of our members about our activities.