How We Can All Help To Reduce Litter

Street litter really annoys me – so I jumped at the chance to attend the Parliamentary launch of the 2018 Keep Britain Tidy campaign (The Great British Spring Clean), the same day the Budget announcement was to take place, to learn about what I could do to help. The event delivered some thought-provoking facts, delivered by inspirational speakers, which is noteworthy: –

  • Chris Preston (Deputy Director of Waste and Recycling, Defra) informed us that the government will release its first waste recycling strategy in 2018. Bravo. I found it ironic that the Times had reported that over 2.5 million disposable cups had been bought for use in Defra itself, over the past 5 years. So Chris has some housekeeping to do.
  • TV presenter Julia Bradbury got straight to the point on plastic pollution. Plastic bottle forecasts stand at half a trillion by 2021. Manufacturers and consumers must work together to ensure recycling and biodegradable alternatives are sourced, and fast.
  • The actress Vicki Michelle sung the praises of 300,000 volunteers, (#litterHeros), who collected over half a million bags this year, the equivalent of 70 wheelie bins worth! The Great British Spring Clean is looking to increase the number of volunteers to 400,000 in 2018.
  • RSPCA Inspector Geoff Edmond reported his team takes over 5000 calls per year related to litter. I had not thought of balloons as being a hazard, but animals can mistake them for food. Sky lanterns, when burnt out, can tangle animals in the wire frames. His team collected over a ton of rubbish during a volunteer weekend this year.
  • Keep Britain Tidy has many big brand sponsors too, and Liz Lowe (Coca-Cola GB sustainability manager), announced that Coca-Cola is reviewing more lightweight packaging, and has set a goal for product packaging to contain 50% of recycled material by 2020.
  • In closing, Allison Ogden-Newton (CEO of Keep Britain Tidy) appealed to the audience for their support in helping inspire at least 400,000 volunteers to get actively engaged.

I left feeling we can all do our bit, and give something back to our beautiful country, by educating our children, friends and family, and encouraging them to go out for a few hours and pick up litter, as a fun exercise. We should think about how we dispose of our waste, by cutting up balloons for example and placing tin lids inside washed out tins and pinching them shut.

Change starts at the top, with simple, effective goals. I believe responsibility lies with Government to set new policies, and apply the right amount of tax pressure, to catalyse collaboration and change between packaging manufacturers, big food brands and their consumers. The introduction of charges for plastic bags, leading to 80% reduction in UK plastic bag use since 2015, shows this can be achieved.

I was delighted the 2017 budget announced government will launch a call for evidence in 2018, to seek views on how a “tax system or charges could potentially reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste (eg bubble wrap, polystyrene takeaway boxes and throwaway coffee cups)”.

It’s a start.