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The state of UK littering

We take a look at the current state of littering and recycling in the UK

1. Litter

  • 30,000 tonnes of litter are collected from England's streets each year - enough to fill Wembley stadium 4 times over.

In the UK, there is an estimated annual cost of £850M for clearing litter from our streets and public areas. To reduce the impact on our local councils, we need to make a conscious effort to look at ways to reduce the amound of littering.

Just like seatbelts in the 1970s and 90s - where cars were fitted with seatbelts and there were campaigns to raise awareness - we must first ensure there is sufficient provision of litter bins and educate people to do the right thing with their litter - this will be a long-term cultural change.

Litter can affect how we behave - once there is a litter issue in an area, it will tend to attract more littering. This whole situation could be avoided entirely by individuals simply putting their rubbish in a bin or taking it home.

There have been conscious efforts to reduce littering in recent years, with clear results being driven by the activity. In October 2015, a 5p levy on carrier bags was introduced with the target to reduce the number issued by 80%, before 2020. In the 6 months following the introduction of the charge, 500 million bags were handed out - compared to 7 billion in the year before the levy came in.

As a direct result, the number of plastic bags picked up on British beaches in 2016 was down by a massive 50%, showing that a small change in attitude, can make an enormous change to the environment.

2. Recycling

  • It is estimated that as much as 80% of the contents of our general waste wheelie bin could have been recycled or composted.

In the 1960s, recycling started to become more commonplace. Drinks companies offered money for returning empty bottles, then saw the introduction of bottle banks in the 1970s. As awareness of climate change and the realisation that we could not go on harvesting the Earth's resources forever, local authorities began to introduce recycling schemes.

In the 1980s there was virtually zero recycling; in 2000 it was around the 12% mark, and in 2015 it was up to 44% - on-track to reach the target of 50% by 2020.

Again, showing the provision of recycling bins and the education to use them is paramount.


3. Smoking

  • There are 244 million cigarette butts dropped in the UK per year.

In the 'How Clean Is England' Survey1, smoking litter has been found in 73% of sites measured - whilst 99% of streets in town centres have some form of cigarette litter. The introduction of the smoking ban in 2007 has contributed to an overall decline in smoking waste, however making it illegal to smoke in most enclosed public spaces has resulted in a high concentration of people smoking outside areas - such as train stations, airports and shopping centres - resulting in an increase in the concentration of smoking litter.

The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee recommended installation of cigarette bins outside public buildings for disposing of cigarette-related litter in those areas where staff congregate to smoke.

4. Dog Waste

  • Over one million tonnes of dog poo is produced in the UK annually.

With the dog population in the UK estimated to be around the 8 million mark, dog owners must act responsibly and pick up after their dogs. If a dog waste bin is provided, the bag should be placed in there; alternatively it can be placed in a normal litter bin, or taken home if none are available.

1.The Local Environmental Quality Survey of England 2014/15
2.Litter and fly-tipping in England

Categories Litter Bins

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