Thursday, 19 March 2015

Wasting time

Litter is a blight on many of our communities. People are rightly disgusted when they see discarded litter and rubbish strewn across our streets. 

Litter levels have remained largely static over the last 12 years, with councils spending hundreds of millions of pounds of our money fighting a losing battle.

England has a litter problem when compared to most of Europe, North America and Japan. While Government and industry must play their part, it is individuals who litter and fly-tip their unwanted goods, and it is their behaviour which needs to change.

The all-party Communities and Local Government Committee, which I chair, has just published its report following our inquiry into litter and fly-tipping in England.

We found that tax-payers - us - pay an annual bill of as much as £850 million in clean-up costs. 

Chewing gum and cigarettes were found to be the most littered items, while fast-food litter increased by 20% in the last year. We were clear that change is needed and that individuals, Government, and tobacco, chewing gum, and fast food industries must now act to tackle the nation’s litter problem.

Litter louts need to be hit harder in the pocket, with fines increased.

The tobacco industry should provide free at the point of sale, portable ashtrays for the disposal of cigarette-related litter.  All public buildings should fit ashtrays in areas where staff congregate to smoke.

Fast-food litter is increasing and dropped over a wide area. The government should introduce an obligation requiring all shops, restaurants and retail food outlets to keep the perimeters of their premises free from litter.

Chewing gum and the resultant staining are a difficult and costly to remove. We think the chewing-gum industry has one last chance to reduce chewing gum litter by making a greater contribution to the cost of clearing gum and staining.

There should be Fixed Penalty Notices for fly-tipping for household items and there should be an industry requirement to take away unwanted household appliances and furniture when replacements are delivered.

Councils can play their part by leading litter campaigns, clean-up days and by investing in smart bins.