An issue which has been brought to my attention recently is the proliferation of rubbish along the side of our local roads and the increase in the number of incidents of fly tipping. I have seen it for myself when driving around my constituency of West Suffolk, and it saddens me greatly. There are stretches of A11 that are strewn with discarded paper, plastic bottles and food packaging.
Whatever the reasons, the cost, both financially and in a sense of civic pride in our surroundings, is very high. We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK, but to keep our roadside verges free from rubbish on just the A14, A12 and A11 costs £300,000 per year. Just think of what could be done with that money if it was being spent in some other way. Fly tipping has also become a problem locally, especially for farmers. Farmers must bear the brunt of the cost to remove waste that has been illegally dumped. Should this dumped waste be environmentally damaging, this could cost the farmer his or her livelihood.
But there are changes on the horizon, in the form of both penalties to deal with those who litter and also through a programme of education to teach people why littering is wrong and why it has no place in a modern society. Councils can now issue fines for up to £150 to the owners of vehicles where litter is tossed from them. In the past the fine was only up to a maximum of £80, and councils had to prove who exactly threw the litter from the car. This new approach should discourage any passengers from throwing litter from a vehicle and put the responsibility on the owner to make sure their passengers do not litter. A reduction in roadside litter will save councils a tremendous amount of money in clean-up costs, will keep our surroundings beautiful and road workers’ lives will not be put at risk by having to clean up the rubbish along-side fast moving traffic.
Another way to deal with littering behaviour is through education. St Edmundsbury Council has been awarded £10,000 to invest in projects to reduce littering on major highways in Suffolk, particularly targeting male drivers between the ages of 18-24, which will comprise an awareness campaign with additional bins, remote monitoring and improved signage. This award is part of the larger £450,000 Litter Innovation Fund. The aim of the fund is to reduce litter by funding innovative approaches to pilot, implement and evaluate small scale local research projects that could be replicated more widely. If prevention is better than cure, then programmes to educate some of the younger members of our society on why littering is an anti-social behaviour, will reap benefits for decades to come.
But until the nuisance of littering is stopped, we have to rely on our council to clean up the mess and also rely on the goodwill, time and effort from volunteers that take part in one-off litter-picking events or who are part of well-established litter-picking groups. St Edmundsbury Borough Council has the Love Where you Live campaign which provides equipment for litter picking and Rubbish Friends, a local group which was established back in 2010 with twenty members and meets every Friday morning. This group alone has collected countless tons of litter over the years.
But although, I am never one to push for anyone’s redundancy, in the case of litter pickers I do want to make them a thing of the past. Our surroundings should be litter-free. Our councils provide public bins, part of our council tax goes towards waste collection and we have ever-improving recycling facilities at our disposal. There is no excuse for littering and the sooner we get this message through to all members of our community, and change the behaviour of litter louts, the better it will be for the environment and for all of us who care about keeping this part of the world beautiful and litter-free.