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Litter and fly-tipping

Litter Litter © CPRE

I’m clearly getting old. I’m noticing litter more and more, and wondering, has it always been this bad...

...or is it just that I am becoming more sensitive to it? Are people getting lazier and more careless in their habits, or am I spending my time in places where litter is more noticeable? Is packaging becoming brighter and more attention-grabbing, or are Council cutbacks affecting the quality and frequency of litter-picking clean-ups?

The scale of the problem

I decided to look into it more closely. Glancing first at CPRE’s national website. It told me that

…nearly half of us (48% of the population) admit to dropping litter. The amount of litter we drop – seven-tenths of it food related – is five times greater today than it was in the 1960s. Illegal fly-tipping, from one black bag to thousands of tonnes of construction waste, happens every 12 seconds. An estimated 122 tons of cigarette butts and cigarette-related litter is dropped every day across the UK. A third of drivers admitting to throwing litter while on the road – dropping 1.3 million pieces of rubbish on Highways Agency roads alone every weekend. Nearly all farmers (95%) have been forced to clear other people’s rubbish from their land.

So it’s obviously not just me. Or just Northumberland. It’s a countrywide problem, and though they are responsible for a lot of it, most young people think it’s not their problem. They will drop it, but when it comes to picking it up, it’s someone else’s job. (This, mind you, doesn't apply to those public-spirited young people who join litter-picking groups.) 


                                                                           © Huguette Roe (Shutterstock)     


 A waste professional (yes, there are such things) once pointed out that once an item is put in a waste bin, that’s it – it’s there in landfill and on your conscience for as long as it takes to decompose, which is, for most modern products, a very long time. Plastic bags take up to 20 years to degrade. Even orange and banana peels take a couple of years. Plastic and glass may last forever.

Taking action

That one thought, that it's virtually there for ever, has been enough to turn me off litter for life. Sometimes, if I think beforehand, I will take a bag and a plastic glove, and pick up the worst of any litter as I take a favourite walk. But sometimes its simply too big a problem for one person. So I’ve just reported two instances of fly-tipped furniture in the countryside to Northumberland County Council. Reporting it was surprisingly easy. I went to the County Council’s website at www.Northumberland.gov.uk and right there, on their home page, is a reporting facility.

So could I urge anyone who has read thus far to do just that? Help your county by picking up what you can, reporting litter and fly-tipping to Northumberland County Council - oh, and by joining CPRE of course.

external websiteNorthumberland County Council 

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