What is…unattractive, contaminating, negative, degrading, a danger to wildlife and costly to get rid of? Yes, you’ve guessed it, litter. In town or country it’s a blight on the environment. I’ve taken to picking up every can I find when out walking or cycling along the winding C road a mile or so either side of the house. To be fair, it’s not a big problem in this sparsely populated corner of the land, but the sight of it – in our case mainly discarded soft drink tins – spurs me on to pick up & pop in our recycling bin.

comprehensive According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) men aged 18-25 often see it as cool to drop litter but hauliers, smokers, users of fast food outlets too are prime littering groups in society. Official figures show that England’s local authorities spent £56 million removing chewing gum from pavements and another £50 million clearing fly tipping. In town there are still people paid to pick up litter, but in the country the chances of a bottle in a hedgerow or ditch being picked up are virtually nil. Apparently last year some 60,000 volunteers took part in litter picks around the country. (I count myself an auxillary in this citizen army). The introduction of a charge for plastic bags nationwide has been a great success and a bottle deposit & return scheme could be the same, if the political will is there to set it up. There are many behavioural and economic buttons to be pressed to get our throwaway culture to change. A greater emphasis on re-usability for instance.

The Great Spring Clean Poster

Litter is the end of a process of production, consumption and disposal. How ironic that the multi-national corporations whose products head up the drop list – like Mars Wrigley, Pepsi & Coca Cola – are the principal sponsors of charity Keep Britain Tidy in their worthy efforts to clear up. CPRE argue that producers of packaging and fast food companies should be paying the cost of clear up and not local authorities, who have suffered drastic government funding cuts in recent years and have reduced environmental services accordingly. We Brits are Europe’s largest consumers of food and drink on the move so no surprise that cans and food containers are the most numerous discarded objects in any roadside litter pick. Will anything change over the next few years? Let’s hope so!

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