Rubbish strewn across beaches, carpets of detritus left behind in city centres, discarded packaging dumped in parks for someone else to deal with.
These are all scenes that have become too familiar during the easing of coronavirus restrictions in the UK but which have their root in a much more long-term problem – the UK’s litter epidemic.
Today we are standing up to it, and urging you to do the same, with our new campaign Don’t Trash Our Future.
BirminghamLive, together with local community and information platform InYourArea.co.uk and our nationwide network of sister newspapers and websites, have teamed up with Clean Up Britain to push for changes we believe will leave no choice but for both irresponsible litter louts and the authorities who have the power to enforce the law but so often don’t to take long-lasting action.
Our campaign has two aims:
- To increase the maximum punishment for littering to a £1,000 fine or 100 hours of supervised community litter picking
- To make it compulsory for local authorities to enforce the law on littering
We are urging you to sign our petition (inyourarea.co.uk/DTOF) to see it – with the aim of reaching 100,000 signatures so we can lobby the Government to change the legislation and shed the country of its long-held reputation as a litter-plagued nation.
We’re also calling on councils to flex their muscles in the fight against rubbish and make far better use of the powers they already have available.
A Freedom of Information request sent by Clean Up Britain to 169 councils in England and Wales found the majority (56%) were issuing less than one fine per week for littering and more than two dozen (16%) don’t issue fines at all.
In a recent survey conducted by InYourArea.co.uk, more than 7,500 respondents overwhelmingly said littering has a negative effect on them and their neighbourhoods and classed it as a big problem.
JB Gill, a former member of superstar pop group JLS who is now a passionate advocate for education and the countryside, has signed up as an ambassador for Don’t Trash Our Future.
We’re calling for lasting changes to be made that will ensure littering and those responsible for it are dealt with far more seriously.
Together with our community platform InYourArea and campaign group Clean Up Britain, we’re calling for the fine for anyone caught littering to be increased to £1,000 and for it to be compulsory for local authorities to enforce the law on what is already a criminal offence.
John Read, founder of Clean Up Britain, said: “Clean Up Britain is very excited to be running the Don’t Trash Our Future campaign with InYourArea.co.uk
“We know from the countless people who contact us that there is a huge desire – from people all over the country – to try and solve the litter epidemic.
“We are all so fortunate to live in a beautiful country, but equally, it’s so depressing
to see so many people littering it.
“This has to stop, as it shames Britain.
“There has to be zero tolerance towards littering.
“Littering is symptomatic of a lack of pride in our local communities, and a lack of respect for other people and the environment generally.
“This campaign is about challenging and reversing these negative sentiments, and saying enough is enough.
“Let’s be grateful for what we have, take care of our country and, above all, ‘Don’t Trash Our Future’.”
Mr Read added: “The Government needs to start getting serious about confronting people who litter.
“It’s a criminal offence to litter and it needs to be treated that way.
“Fines need to be increased to a level which shows the Government – and society generally – will no longer tolerate this antisocial and selfish behaviour.
“In addition, we also need to ensure fines are a credible deterrent, by making it compulsory
for councils to enforce the law, which currently it’s not.”
Journalist and television presenter Jeremy Paxman is Clean Up Britain’s patron. He said: “There is only one sustainable and effective solution to littering: changing the behaviour of people who do it. Nothing else will work.
“It pollutes the environment. It’s dangerous to humans and animals.
“It depresses people because mucky surroundings make them feel worthless. It’s expensive – councils across the UK spend over a billion pounds a year trying to clean it up.”
The campaign has also received the backing of broadcaster and animal rights campaigner Clare Balding and her partner Alice Arnold.
Together, they said: “It’s very sad to see so much litter in this country, both in the countryside and in urban areas.
“It has a demoralising effect on all of us and, also, has a very negative impact on animals.
“A shocking reflection of this is that RSPCA vets, last year, treated over 5,000 cases of animals who’ve been injured by, ingested or become trapped by litter.
“We hope the Clean Up Britain and InYourArea national campaign, Don’t Trash Our Future, will change the attitudes and behaviour of people who do litter, and make us all take more care of the naturally beautiful country we are fortunate to share together.”
Ed Walker, Editor-in-Chief of InYourArea.co.uk, said it’s time for littering to stop.
“InYourArea are proud to be working with Clean Up Britain to tackle the country’s litter and waste epidemic.
“Our users are sick of seeing their neighbourhoods being treated like rubbish dumps. Don’t Trash Our Future will hopefully make councils and members of the public think harder about the littering issue.”
The campaign has also received the backing of behavioural science expert Merle Van Der Akker, President of Behavioural Insights at Warwick Business School.
He said, “It is not about the absolute value of the fine, it’s about the message it sends.
“This level of fine tells you that this behaviour is deemed costly, and quite frankly unacceptable.
“Sometimes it does take drastic measures to get this message across. From a behavioural science perspective, presenting people with such a message triggers a response of shock, because of the sheer size of the fine.
“People then reason that if the fine is so big, the issue at hand must be of great importance or urgency. This is how you get people to pay attention and take action. No one wants to be fined £1000 for throwing away a £1 can of drink.”
Our survey says
More than 7,500 people responded to a nationwide survey on InYourArea.co.uk about littering and its effects.
The results showed people are really angry and sad about litter in their area, which they say is a big problem and getting worse during the pandemic. They want more to be done.
Half of respondents (50%) perceived litter to be a big problem in their area, with a further 35% saying it was a major problem.
Just 14% said litter was a small problem, and only 1% said it was no problem.
Litter has increased since lockdown has eased according to almost two-thirds of people (64%)
A quarter (27%) said it had stayed the same, while just 5% said it had decreased
Respondents aren’t the people causing the problem – 79% said they had never dropped litter
15% said they may have dropped small wrappers, cigarette butts of gum on occasions, while 3% said they did litter
People are very split on whether or not they’d confront litterers
42% said they were very or somewhat likely to confront them, while 40% said they were very or somewhat unlikely to do so
Four in five people (80%) said they wouldn’t confront someone dropping litter because they’d worry about their reaction
Just 2% said they wouldn’t do it because of it was none of their business and 1% said they would notice the litterer
Respondents were likely to report people for dropping litter
25% said they were very likely to, while 39% said they were somewhat likely, with 36% saying they wouldn’t
Most (71%) would report the person dropping litter to the council, while 11% said police, and 11% said they’d post on social media
98% of respondents said they had never been fined for dropping litter (probably not surprising as most said they didn’t drop it), with 1% saying they had been fined
90% also said they didn’t know anyone else who had been fined, with 9% saying they did know someone.
Most people (86%) said they knew littering was a criminal offence
Most people thought the fine for littering should be higher than the current maximum of £150
A third (33%) said it should be between £250 to £500, 16% said it should be £501 to £1,000, while 18% said it should be more than £1,000
A quarter (26%) said there shouldn’t be a change and 7% think the maximum should be less than £150
The vast majority of people (97%) think their council should enforce the law against littering
Most people don’t think the council is doing an a great job of dealing with litter – on a scale of one to 10, the average was four
21% gave a score of 1, 10% a score of 2, 13% a score of 3, 11% a score of 4, 17% a score of 5, 10% a score of 6, 9% a score of 7, 5% a score of 8, 1% a score of 9 and 2% a score of 10
Four in five people (81%) think there are too few public bins in their area
16% said the number was about right, while 1% said there were too many
Despite all this, half (52%) of respondents said the cleanliness of their neighbourhood was excellent
But 42% said it was dreadful
People largely agree that litter is a problem (and it’s got worse)
96% agreed that litter is a public health concern
95% agreed that litter is a threat to animals and wildlife
97% agreed that litter is unattractive
58% agreed that littering is worse since Covid-19 (17% disagreed)
When asked to rank these in order (I’m not sure this question worked, it looks like people put more than one option as 1):
44% put litter is a public health concern top
45% put litter is a threat to animals and wildlife top
42% put litter is unattractive top
27% put littering is worse since Covid-19
More than half (55%) of people said seeing litter makes them angry
A fifth (20%) said it makes them feel sad or depressed, while a further fifth just said they hate it!
1% said it keeps someone in a job, 1% that there are more important problems in the world, and 1% that there’s nothing they can do about it
Organise your own clean-up
As well as fighting for long-lasting change, we’re encouraging people to take up the fight in their streets too by organising community litter picks.
Register your interest through this form here and we will support and publicise your efforts.
Meet our celebrity ambassador
JB Gill, 32, rose to fame as a member of one of the UK’s biggest boybands – JLS. They dominated the charts for five years, boasting 5 number 1 singles, over 10 million record sales worldwide and a multitude of awards.
Four years ago, JB set up a farm in the Kent countryside, where he lives with his wife, Chloe, four-year-old son, Ace and 7-month-old daughter, Chiara.
Their smallholding successfully produces award winning KellyBronze turkeys and free-range Tamworth pork.
Now an established member of the farming community, JB has used his success within the entertainment industry to highlight his passion to educate children about the origins of their food and he is the lead presenter on CBeebies’ BAFTA-nominated television series, ‘Down On The Farm’ (created for children aged 0-6 years, teaching them about life on the farm and in the outdoors).
JB’s enthusiasm for farming life and knowledge of countryside issues has seen him regularly contribute to BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ and ‘Springwatch’.