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You might have seen the latest drive for clearing up the UK, which is aimed to be on a par with the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign of the 1980’s that anyone old enough will remember well. In fact, Keep Britain Tidy has just turned sixty, after it’s inception in 1954. Most of us remember the TV adverts of 30 years ago, at the peak of the publicity for the initiative, and we’re now a generation-and-a-bit on, so the time has come to hammer the message home once more.
Litter has always been a problem, but we need to focus on the countryside as well as the town and city streets. We’ve all seen people wind their windows down and chuck out empty drinks bottles, cigarette butts and fast food waste. Very few people actually believe it’s acceptable, yet they do it anyway. It’s a sad reminder of the ‘someone else will sort it out’ culture we live in, where people put their own convenience before that of others. It’s got to the point where the law may have to be changed to solve the problem, to allow drivers to be fined for rubbish being discarded by the occupants of their vehicle.
The north of England is particularly badly affected by careless disposal of litter, and it’s not just fast food packaging that’s a problem. Fly tipping has become significantly more prevalent over recent years, and councils believe it’s down to poor education as much as laziness or trying to avoid what are perceived to be extortionate fees to correctly dispose of waste. For example, South Yorkshire’s councils are quick to point out that they provide ample facilities for disposing of domestic waste, and businesses can access inexpensive solutions too. For example, Sheffield City Council operate several Household Waste Recycle Centres (HWRC’s) around the city, and can even help with asbestos removal for Sheffield residents. Doncaster council have similar facilities, and point businesses to the ease of getting skips delivered to, and collected from their premises with cheap quotes available from their websites.
There have been campaigns set up by residents in the Peak District, with groups going out litter picking in areas of natural beauty to restore them to their litter-free best. Local councils have caught onto the momentum, and have been running pilots in areas such as Burngreave to see if the concept will catch on as part of a Love Where You Live scheme. The solution to the problem that has spread across an entire nation seems to be making dropping litter socially unacceptable again. It’s always been frowned upon, but when you see neighbours, friends and family picking up rubbish, it makes it harder to do, and the hope is this will shame people into better behaviour.
Some councils are offering litter picking training, which focuses on the safety of volunteers. There are a surprising number of hazards involved, ranging from the chance of infected needles from drug users being hidden in waste to sharp points in hedges and bushes increasing the risk of injury. If you’d like to get involved in cleaning up your area, get in touch with your local authority, who will be able to connect you with the organisers of groups in your vicinity that will be pleased to accept your offer of support.