THE VARIETY of signatories on a recent letter to secretaries of state at Defra and DCLG shows that litter is now an issue that transcends rivalries and differences of opinion.
In coming together we are making it easier for government to deal with this problem: they have a single point of contact to all parties with an interest in reducing litter. Our message to ministers is clear: show leadership and we will respond and together we will make the most determined effort to tackle litter.
There are three dimensions to achieving our objectives:
- Changing the behaviour of those who litter
- Providing more and better bins, using new technology
- Issuing and enforcing fixed penalty notices and ensuring these are managed at no cost to local authorities
Since the 2005 Clean Neighbourhoods Act, councils have had the powers to issue on the spot fines of up to £80 (and ultimately £2,500 upon conviction) to those who litter. The number of fines issued increased from just over 700 in 1997 to almost 64,000 in 2014. However, this equates to an average of about 150 per council, which in reality means a small number of councils are issuing a large number of fines and the majority are not issuing any at all.
While councils dispensing the fines insist their objective is in keeping streets clean, the perception can be that it’s just a fund-raising exercise. Fines should be used to discourage the worst offenders as a key part of campaigning to ensure littering is seen as anti-social behaviour akin to not picking up dog poo or not wearing a seatbelt.
The recent case of the passenger fined for dropping lettuce from her drive-thru burger shows care must be taken to ensure fines are not imposed on those who might accidentally drop something. They must be targeted at those who clearly and wilfully throw litter on the ground.
The FPA is committed to reducing litter and we believe fines are part of the solution. Communication needs to be targeted at those who litter and we need more – and better – bins in the streets.
In the short-term, any revenue from fines should be reinvested in more enforcement officers, better and more bins and communication, like the campaign being run in Villiers Street, London by the charity Hubbub.
The divisions between those lobbying on litter were, quite frankly, a luxury and I’m delighted we’re moving on. Any type of litter attracts other litter so let’s not blame each other’s products but work together and provide a unified forum tackle this unacceptable public behaviour.
Martin Kersh is executive director at the Foodservice Packaging Association.