Most towns and cities these days are seas of litter. Not just ugly, but dangerous for wildlife, pets and children. The best solution is for people not to drop it. But once on public land, litter is the responsibility of councils to clean up. Also read how to recycle glass and aluminium.
Most councils take paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and cans (supermarket bag bins now take most plastic packaging except clingfilm). Recycle blue bottles in green glass bottles (you can leave labels on).
Can I Recycle This? is a guide to better recycling by a woman whose has created plastic bag bans in California and New York. This book takes a quick tour on how recycling works, with answers to how dozens of common household items can be recycled. Plus it gives info on how to safely get rid of everything else.
The Rubbish Book is another good book with answers to questions like where to put bottle lids, why can’t black bags be recycled and what do you do with labels? It includes an A to Z of household items , and an in-depth look at the collection/sorting processes. Plus a breakdown of what recycling symbols mean.
Keep America Beautiful has volunteers who go out yearly to collect litter, then report back. The lists make for alarming reading: not only tons of trash, but a cardboard box (saying ‘please recycle this box’), a disposable nappy full of fruit, an artificial limb and even live puppies (adopted to good homes).
What is known is that when communities look after where they live, it tends to stay that way. So a big litter-clean is usually not in vain. This is called ‘placemaking’ ,where it encourages people to become proud of where they live. If people keep dropping litter, it tends to attract more. Recent ‘new litter’ finds are disposable face masks (the strings harm wildlife, so always snip them before disposal), blue plastic gloves and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) containers.
The new word ‘plogging’ was invented in Sweden. It means jogging, while stopping to pick up litter as you go. Sign of the times.
So why do councils leave litter for months or even years? They have budgets, but abroad (say Switzerland) there is no litter. It’s not the fault of litter-pickers, they are often working hard. It’s quite frankly, usually lack of vision. Council management does not care about to make it a priority. So report litter to your council. For private land, councils can serve Litter Abatement Orders if people refuse to act, if the litter is causing danger. Quote The Environmental Protection Act 1990.
One good idea (from a farmer fed up of his animals ingesting litter) is to add car registration numbers to receipts of drive-through fast food chains. Then (just like if you speed your car), you get an £80 littering fine through the post. Sounds harsh, but it would stop people chucking fast food out their windows.
If you’re arty or active, you can donate unwanted art supplies, sports goods & musical instruments to help others, who don’t have the funds to buy new.