Can we just get on with the lit­ter strat­egy?

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor - Fol­low @agromenes on Twit­ter

THIS mag­a­zine has been a con­sis­tent cam­paigner on lit­ter. Our Clean for the Queen cam­paign last year gal­vanised peo­ple all over the coun­try in a grand tidy-up that also in­volved the CPRE, the WI and Keep Bri­tain Tidy. It there­fore comes as no sur­prise that Agromenes wel­comes the first Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ment to a long-term lit­ter strat­egy, which Lord Gar­diner, the De­fra min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble, un­veiled last week.

Not be­fore time, you may say. Eng­land is an in­creas­ingly filthy place and nowhere more so than some of the most fre­quented beauty spots in the coun­try­side. Like most coun­try peo­ple, Agromenes needs reg­u­lar lit­ter picks to gather the beer cans, car­tons and plas­tic dropped by mo­torists into his fields. He’s not at all sur­prised to find that 30 mil­lion tons of rub­bish are col­lected from our roads and streets ev­ery year nor that sur­veys sug­gest the amount of lit­ter left on our beaches has dou­bled in the past 15 years.

It’s ironic that, just as we clean up the sea in which we bathe, so, in­creas­ingly, we foul up the beaches from which we swim. Now that Surfers Against Sewage and the EU Bathing Water Di­rec­tive have forced suc­cess­ful marine im­prove­ment, can the Na­tional Lit­ter Strat­egy do the same on the land?

There are cer­tainly some very good ideas in De­fra’s plan: get­ting High­ways Eng­land to tar­get the 25 dirt­i­est places in or­der to make a longterm dif­fer­ence; gath­er­ing the best ad­vice for a sus­tained as­sault on the worst kind of lit­ter; and en­cour­ag­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice to be used for clean­ing up and sup­port­ing in­no­va­tive lo­cal com­mu­nity ef­forts to com­bat lit­ter­ing. All these are use­ful ini­tia­tives, as is the com­mit­ment to a na­tional anti-lit­ter­ing cam­paign in 2018 and the de­ci­sion to ban lo­cal coun­cils from charg­ing for do­mes­tic DIY house­hold waste brought to civic col­lec­tion sites.

How­ever, one can’t avoid the feel­ing that ev­ery sin­gle mea­sure has been wrung out of a re­luc­tant Gov­ern­ment by an en­er­getic and en­thu­si­as­tic Min­is­ter. There is lit­tle ev­i­dence that politi­cians and civil ser­vants are re­ally pre­pared to tackle the prob­lem head on. Why are we con­sult­ing on rais­ing the fine for lit­ter­ing to £150 in­stead of sim­ply im­pos­ing it? How come the Gov­ern­ment has avoided im­ple­ment­ing the law against lit­ter-drop­ping from cars un­til now? It’s a scan­dal that Lord Mar­les­ford’s Act was passed by Par­lia­ment in May 2015, but never im­ple­mented by Gov­ern­ment. Now, when it’s short of a pol­icy, it’s try­ing to take credit for bring­ing in the very scheme it res­o­lutely blocked for two years!

There’s so much more that could be done. Why no con­sul­ta­tion on get­ting chew­ing-gum man­u­fac­tur­ers to pay se­ri­ous amounts for clean­ing up their filthy dis­cards? Where’s the de­bate on re­turn­able bot­tles so we’re en­cour­aged to take back the emp­ties? Above all, why is there clearly no real de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­force the law? Un­less it’s made a pri­or­ity for po­lice ac­tion, it won’t hap­pen. We need on-the-spot fines, with the pro­ceeds go­ing to ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic­ity. We should in­sist that ac­com­pa­ny­ing adults are re­spon­si­ble for chil­dren’s lit­ter­ing. Of course, lots of peo­ple will con­tinue to get away with their dirty habits, but when every­one knows some­one who’s been charged and fined heav­ily, then we’ll all take no­tice.

Chang­ing the culture is a tough job in a na­tion that lit­ters more than most of its neigh­bours, but if there were a real will, it would hap­pen. Our green and pleasant land shouldn’t be de­spoiled by the lit­ter louts. This Na­tional Strat­egy is a start—but only a start. The Gov­ern­ment should give Lord Gar­diner the tools to fin­ish the job.

‘Chang­ing the culture is a tough job in a na­tion that lit­ters more than its neigh­bours

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