Contributed by Dave Adams
Executive Director, Operational Services, NBC
ost of us will recognise the slogan above from the national Keep Britain Tidy campaigns. But how many of us realise that the campaign, originally started by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes and endorsed by celebrities such as Abba and Morecombe and Wise, is now more than 50-years-old?
The harsh reality is that despite all the efforts of local councils to combat the problem of litter and the negative impact that it has on our communities and neighbourhoods, more than 30 million tonnes of litter is collected from the streets of England every year at a cost to Council Taxpayers of £780 million.
Quite apart from the cost of clearing up litter, the environmental damage caused to wildlife is as serious as the unsightly, untidy and uncared for impression that can be created when litter is dropped. Food waste in particular is becoming an issue in town centres as it can attract rodents and scavenging birds.
The responsibility for clearing and controlling litter rests with local councils and in some cases, such as within Newcastle-under-Lyme, support in controlling litter is also provided by the police.
With the exception of Christmas Day, the borough council’s Streetscene Team, a very dedicated band of early risers, are out on the streets of Newcastle by 6am with sweepers, brushes and blowers to clean away the litter left from the night before.
A typical working day for the Streetscene Team will involve street sweeping, litter bin emptying, fly-tipping removal, litter picking, fly-poster and graffiti removal, as well as a range of other ground maintenance tasks. Visitors to Newcastle town centre may be familiar with the dedicated litter picking operation that is ongoing throughout the day using the green electric powered “dandy cart”.
I often ask myself what it is within our society – not only locally but nationally – which allows people to think it is acceptable to drop litter with such regularity.
And this happens despite the high-profile campaigns mentioned earlier. Certainly there is some evidence that among some groups, it is deemed fashionable to
drop litter rather than dispose of it responsibly. This happens despite the admirable efforts made in local schools and campaigns run by the council and our partners to raise awareness of the problem from an early age, and warn of the potential consequences if caught.
The council believes in an “educate before litigate” approach to littering. In other words, we would rather work to influence people’s attitudes and encourage them to take a positive approach towards responsibility for our environment. We believe this is preferable to taking an automatic, and perhaps disproportionate, enforcement approach. Powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices carrying a fine of £75 have been adopted in Newcastle-under-Lyme and many other areas and they have been used in more than 100 cases to date – mainly for littering offences in and around Newcastle town centre.
There can be little doubt that although the general standard of cleanliness on the borough’s streets, parks and public places has improved in recent years, there is still much to do as we continue to strive for cleaner public places.
This can only realistically be achieved through a joint and concerted effort on behalf of the authorities and local residents. Many people find littering unacceptable and want to do something about it.
To assist with this, we would ask residents to report litter problems on the dedicated Streetscene contact number 01782 742500 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organised litter picks are also carried out, often organised by Residents’ Associations or Friends of Parks Groups and additional volunteers are always welcome. Alternatively, residents could organise a litter pick in their area themselves. The council will be only too pleased to assist by providing bags, picking sticks and helping with disposal of the rubbish.
If we are all working together we can make a cleaner, greener borough and preserve the area for generations to come.