Calls for ‘joint leadership’ on litter


Anti-litter campaigning body, Keep Britain Tidy, has called on central government and businesses to offer ‘joint support and leadership’ on reducing litter as part of its ‘Which side of the fence are you on?’ campaign.

Launching its new report,‘Litter – Making a Real Difference’, at the Tidy Britain All Party Parliamentary Group meeting in the House of Commons on Thursday (5 December), the Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Phil Barton, said that ‘new approaches in tackling the issue of litter’ are needed to reduce the environmental impact of unmanaged waste.

Barton argued that more support was needed from central government and businesses as local authorities struggle with increasing budget cuts and are thereby ‘forced to concentrate on statutory services’.

He said: “Cleaning up litter around the clock is no longer an option as council budgets continue to be slashed across England.”

Report details

According to Keep Britain Tidy’s report, the budgetary situation is ‘unlikely’ to change, so ‘new approaches’ are ‘needed soon’ to tackle litter.

With contributions from environmental consultants, businesses, communities, local authorities and academics, the report outlines 12 ‘perspectives’ on what can be done to help prevent littering in England.

Contributions focus on the importance of governmental leadership, what businesses can do to reduce litter, the continued ‘vital’ role of local authorities and ‘putting people at the heart of local litter solutions’.

The report indicates that while local authorities, land managers and civil society are ‘doing their best’ despite budget issues to crack down on litter, businesses ‘appear to be reluctant to do anything about it’.

Crucially, the report laments that the current government has ‘walked away’ from litter issues, which it says is now a ‘lost subject’ without an ‘overarching strategy’.

‘The importance of governmental leadership’

The report’s opening section outlines ‘the importance of governmental leadership’. Chris Sherirngton of environmental consultancy Eunomia suggests the ways in which better evidence of the environmental impact and costs of litter can support and inform governmental policy in this regard.

This could involve government ‘enhancing’ its understanding of the range and scale of the negative effects of litter so that it can ‘make informed decisions as to whether to take action’ and developing a ‘better understanding’ of the relative impact of litter types to allow for the ‘most cost-effective measures to be prioritised’.

Dr Elizabeth Brooks, Research Associate at Newcastle University argues that ‘governmental policy needs to reflect social justice issues’ in the prevention of litter, and suggests sending those who are found littering on ‘a day of education about the consequences of littering’ or having them take part in a ‘collective litter clean-up operation’ to demonstrate the impacts of litter.

Lastly, Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer at the Marine Conservation Societyargues that government leadership is needed to establish a clearer link between land and marine litter, and suggest this could be done through the introduction of quantative targets for decreasing marine litter.

Business as part of the ‘solution’

In the second section, which outlines the role of business in conjunction with governmental leadership, Dr Stuart Roper from Manchester Business School begins by investigating whether brands can be part of the solution to litter issues in the UK.

Helen Drury of the British Council of Shopping Centres then asks what role the institutions she represents can play – specifically what shopping centres can do to reduce litter and what the associated benefits of this would be.

Finally, a proactive corporate approach to the reduction of litter is investigated and advocated by Peter Shroeder of McDonalds.

Barton concluded: “To really make a difference and to make the changes we want to see, we need joint support and leadership from central government and for businesses to recognise that being part of the solution can benefit society, the environment and their business as well.

“The £1 billion a year it costs to clean the streets of England is an unsustainable amount. This is money that could pay for 38,644 social care workers, 4,400 libraries or 33,200 nurses.”

To read about the role of local authorities and individual action, access the whole ‘Litter – Making a Real Difference’ report.