Keep Britain Tidy launches anti-litter campaign

Keep Britain Tidy

Members of Keep Britain Tidy outside the Houses of Parliament to launch 'Which Side of the Fence are You on?'

Keep Britain Tidy, an environmental charity that aims to tackle litter, yesterday (27 June), launched a new anti-litter campaign at the Houses of Parliament.

As part of its new campaign ‘Which Side of the Fence are You on?’, members of Keep Britain Tidy erected a fence in the Churchill Room and invited politicians to join them ‘on the right side of the fence’ in tackling litter.

The aim of the campaign is to get politicians, businesses, local authorities and community leaders thinking about the issue of litter, which reportedly costs the taxpayer £1 billion every year.

Keep Britain Tidy also called on government to take five actions to help prevent further littering. These were:

  • improving litter infrastructure;
  • implementing effective use of fines;
  • creating longer product lifespan and stewardship after sale;
  • introducing levies on disposable products; and
  • promoting reusable or recyclable packaging.

The group has also released a report outlining why these actions are needed.

Report findings

The introduction to the ‘Which Side of the Fence are You on?’ report, reads: ‘Street cleansing alone costs taxpayers almost £1 billion a year in England. The social and environmental costs take that figure even higher, as do the costs to business and tourism. Despite promising action on preventing litter in the Coalition Agreement, the government has stepped away. But Keep Britain Tidy hasn’t given up and neither have our 100,000 supporters.

‘More and more people, businesses and other organisations are making it clear which side of the fence they are on. They’re choosing to fight litter.’

It goes on to say that 62 per cent of people in England drop litter, and the cost of cleaning this up could be used for to pay for ‘38,644 social care workers, 4,400 libraries or 33,200 nurses’. Alternatively, the group says that the money could be invested in the green economy ‘to help support more sustainable and healthy ways of life’. It calls on government to take further action to decrease the amount of litter dropped, in the hopes of reinvesting this money to other areas of the economy.

In addition, the report notes that ‘the proportion of sites below an acceptable standard for litter increased by three per cent in 2011/12 in comparison to the previous year’ and suggests that ‘a poor-quality local environment can also have wider impacts on public health, including mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression’.

Environmental implications of litter are also outlined in the report, which states that ‘much litter both from the UK and abroad ends up in the seas and oceans’. Of this, the report highlights that ‘80 per cent of marine litter comes from the land’.

Public support

Looking to the public, the report states that 57 per cent of people in England ‘consider litter to be a problem in their area’, while 72 per cent of those asked ‘agreed that the government should do more’. Further statistics show that 82 per cent of respondents thought businesses ‘should do more to prevent litter’.

Indeed, the report found that there are clear costs to businesses as a result of litter, with a recent Keep Britain Tidy survey revealing that 34 per cent of respondents would be less likely to buy from a brand they see as litter on the street, costing as much as two per cent of a company’s turnover.

The state in which our streets, parks and beaches are left as a result of litter was also found to lead to a reported ‘increase in fear of crime’ and ‘encourages anti-social behaviour’. The report adds that ‘eight in ten land managers think that fighting minor crimes like litter and graffiti would help to reduce more larger crimes and improve safety in their area’.

‘Enough is enough’Howarth

Speaking of the new campaign, Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Phil Barton (pictured right with MP Gerald Howarth) said: “We know that people do not want to see our country covered with litter and yet still we have to deal with a £1 billion litter problem. Enough is enough. It is time for us all – individually and collectively – to decide which side of the fence we’re on.

“Keep Britain Tidy has more than 100,000 people out there showing that they are on the right side of fence by their actions – cleaning up their communities, improving their parks, beaches, streets, schools.

“We are also working with some businesses, including McDonald’s and Wrigley, that have recognised and accepted that they have a responsibility and a role to play in tackling the problem. There is a clear business case for this as 39 per cent of people in England would be more likely to buy a brand they knew took action to prevent litter.”

Members of Parliament welcomed the new campaign, with Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, tweeting: ‘Great event for @KeepBritainTidy… We all need to do more to support/promote a clean environment!’

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, a Conservative member of the House of Lords also tweeted: ‘At @KeepBritainTidy event. £1billion spent on street cleaning. Litter drives me nuts. We all need to play part. Carry plastic bag 4 rubbish.’

Read more about the ‘Which Side of the Fence are You on?’ campaign.

(L-R): MP Gerald Howarth on the 'right side of the fence' when it comes to litter, with Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Phil Barton.