Clean Up Britain was started by a small group of professionals who united based on a shared passion for looking after our environment, and a particular concern about the increasing problem of litter.
We’ve been lobbying hard for a national litter campaign and are members of the National Litter Strategy Advisory Group.
In 2018, we’re broadening our horizons to inspire and enable communities and businesses better address environmental issues which are fast becoming extremely hot topics – single-use plastics, reuse and recycling.
Alice has a background in behaviour change campaigning and working with local government. She is our ‘Local Champions’ Manager and heads up our growing cohort of Local Champions. This network of volunteers allows us to increase our impact by monitoring and raising litter issues at a local, as well as national, level.
Founder, Clean Up Britain. Extensive experience in campaigning, corporate communications, CSR, media management & public affairs. Has worked with the England cricket team, De Beers, the Conservative Party, Richard Branson and HRH Princess Haya of Jordan.
Kenny is Campaign Chairman of Clean Up Britain. During an illustrious rugby union playing career, he played 70 times for Scotland, scoring 20 tries, and also played 175 times for Wasps, scoring 79 tries. Kenny is also Founder-Director of Logan Sports Marketing.
Ric has extensive experience of the charitable sector having held senior positions at Mencap, NCVO, St. Mungo’s and Quakers in Britain. He is also a skilled negotiator and tenacious environmental advocate.
Farms in the Midlands. NAGA Cereal Grower of the Year 2022. NFU Crops Board. Passionate about food production and being custodians of our beautiful countryside. On a mission to massively reduce the scourge of “fly-tipping”.
Highly distinguished and widely respected broadcaster and writer, Jeremy is Patron of Clean Up Britain. He sums up his strong views by saying “ours is a beautiful country and I just don’t understand why people would want to drop litter – it makes me angry and depressed”.
This year we’re ramping up our campaigning and work with communities.
We also recognise that businesses face increasing scrutiny to anticipate and react to the environmental impacts of operating.
It’s not only our environment that’s at stake. The media are, quite rightly, becoming increasingly vocal about companies not doing their fair share. It’s becoming imperative that businesses take action on environmental issues over which they have some control.
Photo copyright John Read
We recently sent Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests to all England’s 318 Councils, asking them various questions about their approach to litter fines, enforcement and litter bin provision. Have a look at the attached spreadsheet to see what your local Council does. If it’s missing, that’s because they didn’t respond.
These are the topline findings:
This is going to be part of a short series of blog posts where we try and give the general public an idea of why there is so much litter along the UK’s roads and also start helping people to take action.
We say ‘start helping people to take action’ because, unfortunately, responsibility for litter clearance can be annoyingly complicated. This post is a summary of the simple part.
Anyway – you may have noticed that the UK’s road network is often heavily littered with everything from large debris to road signs to cans, bottles and other packaging. It makes for pretty depressing viewing.
But what can you do as a member of the general public? Who do you go to? Who is accountable?
The simple part to this answer is that the motorways are managed by Highways England. So if you want to report a particularly littered motorway stretch, you can email them on email@example.com
Keep your email short and to-the-point, be specific about where the litter is and ask them to clear it away. If you don’t get a reply or see any action taken, email again. If you want to let us know how you get on and if you get any response, please do – we like to hear real-life stories and may share them on this blog. We can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cleanupbritain
We now get to the next (and more problematic) part – the A-roads. These are often the most heavily littered for reasons that will become clear.
So – Highways England are responsible for some of the A-roads; the map below is the only information Highways England release to clarify which roads/stretches of roads those are. You’ll notice there is no detail about which specific junctions are covered by them – we are working to get more detail on this as well as getting a higher resolution image. Anyway you can, in theory, simply do the same as above to report litter on these roads/stretches of roads.
However, the rest of the A-road network is managed by local borough and district councils, meaning some A-roads may go through 6 or 7 of these. There are frequently no signs showing which council is responsible for which stretch, no obvious way to report litter and there is the complication that the councils don’t have the power to close roads to litter-pick – something which is often used as a reason not to litter-pick. It is also often not clear who looks after roundabouts, slip roads and connecting roads.
We will be providing more detail on this as well as some suggestions about what to do about it in our next post.
In the meantime, at least you know who to approach about the motorways…
Today, Clean Up Britain (CLUB), the only national campaign 100% focused on solving Britain’s litter and fly-tipping epidemic, is launching a 10-point ‘Motorway Action Plan’ to clean up England’s filthy, squalid and hyper-littered motorways. This is what we’re proposing:
As an update to our recent summary of Freedom of Information request findings, we have also been asking councils for details on how often they litter-pick the A-roads in their area.
Sevenoaks District Council deny responsibility for litter-picking the A21, saying that it was last done by National Highways/Kent County Council in July 2021 and they are not aware of any current plans to do it again. Previous responses from them confirmed that they have never litter-picked their central reservation area and believe this to be the responsibility of National Highways (even though it is quite clear in NH’s one published, publicly-available map that they are not responsible for any part of the A21, and neighbouring councils and Kent County Council have confirmed that the district and borough councils are responsible for the road).
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council took months to provide the information about their litter-picking schedule, and when provided, it revealed that their section was last litter-picked in October 2021 and is just about to be litter-picked again. Their original response to our query also stated that they believed Kent County Council were responsible for litter-picking, although both they and KCC have subsequently confirmed that this is not true.
While this is just two councils, it is indicative of the chaos out there which produces the visible results along the UK’s A-roads.
If you have done any Freedom of Information requests to find out whether your local authority regularly litter-picks any A-roads which run through them, please do send them in to us on email@example.com
No, neither did we – and usually we don’t promote litter picking, on the basis that it is not the public’s job to be a sticking plaster for inadequate local and national services.
However, Litterlotto combines binning litter with free entry into a prize draw with regular spot prizes and monthly jackpots, all supported by brands that want a cleaner environment. So there is really no reason for us not to spread the word and encourage people to go for it and potentially get something for their efforts.
To get involved, you need to download the app onto your phone, read their ‘Getting Started’ guide and that’s pretty much it!
Since the end of 2021, Clean Up Britain has been engaged in a project to get further into the details of what is happening up and down the country with regards to councils and litter action.
A group of Local Champions have been sending requests to their councils to help us answer some key questions about litter prevention in England.
At the time of writing, there are 330+ local authorities in England alone – this makes it a pretty significant task to get round all of them and collate the responses. However, we have already contacted a very significant sample size of 70+.
This means we are getting a pretty good idea of why things out there look like they do.
Here are some initial headlines:
– Councils which use private enforcement agencies issue significantly more fines for littering than those which don’t
– Almost all the councils which use private enforcement agencies have contracts in place which are at least cost-neutral
– Some councils don’t know how many bins they manage
– Some councils have responsibility for managing bins and some apparently don’t
– Virtually no councils separate out the cost of litter picking from their overall street cleaning contracts, meaning the true cost the of the problem is difficult to identify and therefore reduce
– The amount that you are fined for littering and the likelihood that you will be fined for littering varies hugely from one area to another
The picture is a mix of definitely good and definitely bad practice. It is also highly fragmented, which raises the question of why some of these important maintenance issues are not more standardised across the country – are things really so different in Tonbridge & Malling, Waverley and Amber Valley..? And why, when the answers and outcomes are often so clear-cut, is there so little consensus and sharing of best practice?
More to follow as further findings are analysed.
The following statement – apart from being delusional and untrue – would not have been out of place if issued by the Politburo in the former Soviet Union!
“The cleanliness of the city’s roads has been acknowledged by central government, following an independent assessment of roadside litter levels in areas maintained by local authorities and Highways England. The assessment was carried out by UK-based environmental charity, Keep Britain Tidy, on behalf of DEFRA, whose analysis congratulated Sheffield City Council for maintaining a consistently high standard of roadside cleanliness.
Are they being serious?
Anyone who lives in or near Sheffield knows that the city suffers from a severe litter problem. It’s also true to say that Sheffield City Council has no discernible litter strategy, and that if it wasn’t for the tireless and community-spirited work of Sheffield Litter Pickers and other local volunteers, the city would resemble downtown Dhaka.
The city is covered in litter – as indeed is the whole country. Consider the words of local Sheffield MP, Clive Betts:
“I’m ashamed, angry and embarrassed – our country is a filthy, littered, disgrace”
This aforementioned ‘assessment’ was carried out by Keep Britain Tidy – an organisation well past its expiry date – that has been the recipient of £100m+ of taxpayers money from DEFRA (Dept for Environment) and who many people know as ‘DEFRA’s litter lackeys”.
As Jeremy Paxman, Clean Up Britain’s Patron, says… “Keep Britain Tidy are even more useless than DEFRA” – and that’s saying something!
So, what we have here is one useless organisation telling another useless organisation that Sheffield City Council are doing a good job.
Given the vast volumes of litter in and around Sheffield which is collected by volunteer litter pickers every week, forgive local people if they find this so-called ‘independent assessment’ little more than deceitful state sponsored propaganda.
And just so people know, Sheffield Litter Pickers go out a few times every week, and collect between 40-60 bags of litter from Sheffield streets in only a few hours.
If anyone is keeping the city clean – and deserves an accolade – it could be argued it’s them.
Sheffield City Council need, in the first instance, to do three things….
Firstly, implement a highly professional anti-litter behavioural change campaign. Not the half-baked and ineffectual version that DEFRA has cooked-up behind closed doors with Keep Britain Tidy.
Secondly, ensure that active and high visibility litter enforcement and fining takes place in Sheffield. As behavioural change experts, we know that the perceived fear of being fined is a powerful deterrent to litterers. Ideally, this needs to be done by a private sector company, as in-house Council enforcement fails in most places.
Thirdly, provide funding and genuine support to fantastic local groups such as Sheffield Litter Pickers and Love Our Streets.
Failing this, they should have the courage and honesty to say to the people of Sheffield that they have given up on the fight against litter, and are merely interested in engaging in the sort of misleading pretence perpetrated by Keep Britain Tidy and DEFRA.
PS. The below four photos are more representative of what Sheffield actually looks like, and were all taken by local people.
As part of our anti-cigarette litter behavioural change campaign in Bristol, we’ve produced this very short film, fronted by the comedian, Marcus Brigstocke. The concept behind it is that we use a bit of humour to try and convey key campaign messages directly to people who have been fined – by Bristol City Council – for littering in Bristol. Last year, there were over 7,000 people. Litterers who agree to watch the film at home online, and answer three questions about it, are given a 50% reduction in their fine. Hence, we’re undertaking a UK-first in terms of combining enforcement and education at the same ‘point of sale’… if we can put it that way!
If you are concerned by the amount of litter you see, whether it is in parks, town centres, on roadsides or on beaches, please do give your views to the government by filling in this consultation:
We know there is no quick fix to the litter problem but the highly-successful plastic bag charge has led to a huge reduction in plastic bag littering.
A story in The Times yesterday highlighted that one beach litter-pick project run by the Marine Conservation Society found that 13 bags/100m stretch of beach in 2013 had reduced to just 3 bags/100m stretch this year – the charge was introduced in 2015. Similarly, since Scotland banned plastic cotton bud sticks in 2019 and England did in 2020, instances of these per 100m have reduced from 15 to 6. So government interventions can have a really significant impact.
Don’t miss this opportunity to have your say and make sure our roads, towns, rivers and beaches are included in the current rhetoric about protecting the environment.
Apologies to those for whom this article is behind a paywall, but if you are a Times subscriber this is an impressive and interesting study and worth reading.
Using drones and analysis of the litter they observed, glow-in-the-dark bins and ‘ballot bins’ (which make depositing litter the subject of a fun preference question) were installed in strategic locations on Bournemouth beach.
An reduction of 88 per cent in glass bottles and aluminium cans was observed as a result of the glow-in-the-dark bins and ballot bins resulted in a 73 per cent reduction in discarded cigarette butts.
To ensure a fair comparison, one side of the beach used this approach while the other did not – overall, on the side which had the trial a 79 per cent reduction in litter was observed while there was no reduction on the other side.
The project was funded by McDonald’s, the drones were operated by Ellipsis Earth and the project was carried out by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council in partnership with Hubbub, an environmental charity.
We are pleased to announce that over the past few months, Clean Up Britain has launched a new initiative to raise awareness of litter at a local level and and encourage action.
Our network of Local Litter Champions will be reporting issues to their local authorities, monitoring progress and requesting information on how local authorities manage litter clearance. All this will help inform our national campaigning as well as highlighting different practices, good and bad…
As well as providing the practical help above, the group exists as a way for concerned members of the public to get involved in doing their bit by something other than litter-picking – something we feel is only papering over the cracks in terms of solving the problem.
On this blog we will share some of the Champions’ experiences, updates on the issues faced by those looking to help stop Britain’s litter crisis and some facts and figures on the state of litter management in the UK.
To be kept up to date on our campaigning, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @cleanupbritain and join our list of supporters. We know we don’t keep in touch that often but as we get more resource we are hoping to do more!
Clean Up Britain, the national anti-litter and fly-tipping organisation, is today launching the Green Champions Award, in collaboration with four industry-leading partners.
These are Event Cup Solutions, FSG, Reconomy and Zero Waste Events.
The Green Champions Award is about asking organisations to embrace sustainable operating practices and to educate their key stakeholders, be that customers, festival-goers, fans or students and staff.
“Quite simply, we’re asking – and helping – organisations to achieve the highest standards of environmental behaviour.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, we’re all even more aware of the fragile nature of our global eco-system. There is now an acute need for organisations and individuals alike to embrace more sustainable behaviour. In fact, many consumers are, increasingly, demanding it”.
Since Covid-19 emerged, Kantar, the leading data insights consultancy, has reported that over 49% of people say that they now “actively seek out companies and brands that offer ways to offset their impact on the environment”.
The Green Champions Award covers five specific areas:
“It seems evident that the social responsibility expectation of consumers has become more demanding and discerning. The corporate reputation of an organisation can, undoubtedly, be enhanced through transparent evidence of its sustainable environmental practices. That’s what the Green Champions Award helps deliver”.
For further information, please contact John Read at john.read@cleanupbritain.
What makes it so deadly is the fact that it’s so commonplace. It’s viewed as a part of everyday life in the UK. But do we want Coke cans, cigarette butts, crisp packets and fast food packaging to be part of our landscape? Every countryside ‘idyll’, urban hedgerow, canal, river and our beaches harbouring tonnes of waste?
It’s not sustainable, it’s not good for our wildlife and it’s not good for us either. So, welcome to our new Tee-Shirt and Hoodie range – let’s get the message out there. Littering. Enough.
Clean Up Britain has joined forces with In Your Area, the UK’s leading local news, information and community platform, and JLS singer and farmer JB Gill to launch “Don’t Trash Our Future”, a campaign to deliver genuine behavioural change around littering.
The first part of the campaign involves urging the government to increase littering fines in the UK to £1000, or 100 hours community litter picking and, also to make it compulsory for every local authority in Britain to enforce the law.
While critics may argue the increased fine and community service terms are drastic, there is already a £1,000 fine for owners allowing a dog to ‘litter’ in public space, and not clean it up. In addition, and to compare, there is a $1,000 fine for littering in California; $2,200 Australian dollars in New South Wales and a whopping $10,000 in Massachusetts.
PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION at: www.donttrashourfuture.co.uk
Increased littering has been an unwelcome feature of the coronavirus pandemic. Streets are soiled, bins are overflowing and parks are left strewn with bottles and wrappers. Laws exist to keep the country clean, but they are either flouted or not enforced on a massive scale – as recent scenes at beauty spots across the UK only serve to prove – so more drastic action is needed to change the behaviour of the public and local councils.
A Freedom of Information request sent by Clean Up Britain to 169 councils in England and Wales found the majority (56%) were issuing less than one fine per week for littering and more than two dozen (16%) don’t issue fines at all*.
A new survey commissioned by In Your Area with more than 7500 respondents reveals:
Commenting on his support for Don’t Trash Our Future JB Gill said:
“It’s great to see that people recognise that litter is a public health concern and a major problem. The only way to stop the damage being done to our health, nature and wildlife is to sign the Don’t Trash our Future petition, object to local councils not enforcing fines and demand a higher penalty for those dropping litter.”
It is hoped that the increased fine and pressure from members of the public on local councils to enforce it will result in a dramatic shift in attitude towards litter and waste. Commenting on the matter Merle Van Der Akker, President of the Behavioural Insights Team at Warwick Business School said:
“It is not about the absolute value of the fine, it’s about the message it sends. This level of fine tells you that this behaviour is deemed costly, and quite frankly unacceptable. Sometimes it does take drastic measures to get this message across. From a behavioural science perspective, presenting people with such a message triggers a response of shock, because of the sheer size of the fine. People then reason that if the fine is so big, the issue at hand must be of great importance or urgency. This is how you get people to pay attention and take action. No one wants to be fined £1000 for throwing away a £1 can of drink.”
John Read, Founder of Clean Up Britain said:
“Fines need to be increased to a level which shows the Government – and society generally – will no longer tolerate this antisocial and selfish behaviour. In addition, we also need to ensure fines are a credible deterrent, by making it compulsory for councils to enforce the law, which currently it’s not.”
Commenting on Don’t Trash Our Future Ed Walker, Editor-in-Chief for In Your Area said:
“In Your Area are proud to be working with JB Gill and Clean Up Britain to tackle the country’s litter and waste epidemic. Our users are sick of seeing their neighbourhoods being treated like rubbish dumps. Don’t Trash Our Future will hopefully make councils and members of the public think harder about the littering issue.”
At Clean Up Britain, we’re no average litter campaigners. We’re only interested in finding sustainable and effective solutions. In common with most people, we want to see meaningful action that will really start addressing the many deep-rooted issues surrounding litter in this country.
Read on to learn about three significant initiatives we’re working on in 2020.
The new Environment Bill is currently proceeding through Parliament. According to DEFRA*, the Environment Bill will help deliver the government’s commitment to the “most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”.
The problem lies in their artificially contrived definition of the ‘natural environment’ – which would exclude roads, pavements, lay-bys and slip-roads. This means that the new Office of Environmental Responsibility (OER) – which is established in the Bill – won’t have the powers to assess whether local Councils all over the country (and Highways England) are fulfilling their legal responsibilities to ensure they keep their land clear of litter.
Currently, every Council in Britain is failing in its legal duties relating to litter clearance and, as the Bill is currently drafted, the OER will not be empowered to hold them accountable. A deliberate and critical omission by the government.
Our team are actively lobbying members of the House of Commons Standing Committee who are scrutinising the Bill. It’s essential that we get the Bill amended. If it’s not, there will be no statutory body who has the remit and power to monitor Council efforts to clean up their local area, and punish them if they fail to do so.
McDonald’s have over 1200 restaurants in the UK, many of them drive-thru takeaways.
Huge numbers of their customers litter their fast-food packaging – the evidence is strewn all over the country, even reaching rural lanes miles away from where it was bought. Yet McDonald’s do next to nothing to educate their customers on the impact of litter.
McDonald’s have applied for permission to build a drive-thru restaurant, close to Junction 15 of the M40 motorway, on the outskirts of Warwick in the West Midlands. This is our opportunity to set a new precedent on planning conditions attached to this type of development.
Clean Up Britain is running a sustained media and political lobbying campaign, putting pressure on Warwick District Council to impose three additional planning conditions that must be met by McDonald’s before they are granted permission to build.
These conditions relate to anti-litter messaging in and around the restaurant and drive-thru and, innovatively, the installation of an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system to link a customer’s food and drink packaging to their car registration number plate – which would be printed on their takeaway packaging and receipt.
You can read more about the campaign here. Success would set a very important national precedent, and enable us to extend our campaigning for fast-food restaurants to take more responsibility for the damaging environmental impacts of their business.
We strongly believe that to effectively change littering behaviours, it’s essential that people perceive that there’s a credible threat of being fined for dropping litter.
At present, that perception hardly exists. Many people don’t know that dropping litter is a criminal offence. If they do, they believe there’s no danger of being fined. They’re right. Many Councils don’t enforce the law against littering.
Among the Councils who do fine, the vast majority use their own staff. Most fail to do the job effectively. Not only is it difficult to catch someone in the act of dropping litter, it’s a confrontational and stressful job, which Council employees avoid doing in favour of other less onerous duties.
We’re conducting an audit of every Council in Britain to establish whether they undertake litter enforcement and, if so, exactly how many fines they issue.
The aim is also to show that private sector litter enforcement contractors are more effective than their Council counterparts, and offer better value for money. We’re confident we will also prove that Councils who enforce the law have cleaner, less littered, areas.
Once we’ve completed this audit, we’re planning to run a national campaign to significantly increase the number of Councils enforcing the law on litter, and also urge them to employ ethical private sector enforcement companies.
*DEFRA is the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Clean Up Britain (with excellent research contributed by Peter Silverman of Clean Highways) have collaborated with Channel 4 News to bring this Special Report. Investigation into Highways England has revealed a private contract, £8 Billion of public money and a very littered M25…
Channel 4 News’ Chief Correspondent, Alex Thomson writes : “Instead of pristine stretches of road, Britain’s motorways are being treated as a rubbish dump with verges covered in piles of discarded trash.
Under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, Highways England are supposed to make sure major roads are kept litter free. So why isn’t Connect Plus, the private firm which has the contract to keep motorways like the M25 spick and span, doing just that?”
Designing the ‘perfect’ portable ashtray. Why should it matter?
Globally, trillions of cigarette butts are thrown into our environment every day. Most cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate fibres. Cellulose acetate is a plastic that is slow to degrade. What’s more, cigarette filters leach harmful toxins into the environment.
We think a portable ashtray is one easy solution to ‘on the go’ cigarette litter in the UK. So why aren’t the majority of UK smokers using them?
Clean Up Britain, as part of a large scale public survey, has gathered data on how smokers would use a portable ashtray and the ‘optimum’ design to continue or encourage this use. Good design will increase the use of portable ashtrays and reduce cigarette litter.
Over 2019/20 we set out to comprehensively analyse a variety of portable ashtray designs with the help of the general public. As far as Clean Up Britain can establish (and we’ve looked extensively) there has never been a quantitative research survey carried out on the use and design of portable ashtrays in Britain.
To do this we set up a diverse range of Smokers’ Focus Groups to gather qualitative data on what they thought about various designs of ashtray. Participants even had a hand at designing what they felt was their ‘perfect’ portable ashtray. Our Focus Group research made it clear that many factors come into play to create a user friendly design. Some of our findings were quite surprising, such as the audible ‘click when closed’ valued by the majority of participants. Size and minimal/no smell were also considered important.
In our second phase of research we rolled out over 500 hundred portable ashtrays, free, for the general public to trial. A big thank you to local Warwickshire businesses and organisations that supported us with such an ambitious roll out! Once trialled, participants filled out a simple, anonymous survey to provide feedback on the design of portable ashtray they trialled.
Assessing the two pieces of research together (qualitative and quantitative), there are two very strong themes. Firstly, that a majority of smokers are open to the concept of using a portable ashtray (albeit in different circumstances). Secondly, there is very considerable room for design innovation and improvement on the style of portable ashtrays currently on the market.
With this study now concluded Clean Up Britain has produced a 72 page report ‘Portable Ashtrays in the UK – Report on the Quantitative Research, January 2020’
A few months ago we launched a ground-breaking behavioural change project in Leamington Spa .
During the campaign we want to learn about how to really change littering behaviour. At the same time we’re working on other related issues such as single-use plastic, disposable coffee cups and local businesses impact on the environment.
We started out with the launch of our shocking ‘Litter Kills’ campaign which highlights the upsetting impact of litter on wildlife and pets. We then cleaned thousands of bits of chewing gum off the high street. Following that we kicked off educational sessions (at both primary and secondary schools). Most recently we launched our Street Activist project pilot.
The Street Activist project answers the question ‘what can I do’ and aims to bring together individuals and groups who want to be part of positive change. The idea is to inspire and enable anyone who wants to do something about litter and the environment. We’ve built the Street Activist ‘Hub’ to help out with ideas, resources and details of local groups and events.
We’ve also joined forces with Plastic Free Leamington & Warwick and awarded our brand new Green Business Recognition to 25 town centre businesses. These cafes and restaurants have committed to managing litter outside their premises and are working hard to reduce their use of throwaway plastics and improve recycling. We’re working hard to bring more on board.
Leamington is a fascinating and surprisingly diverse town, bang in the middle of the country:
It’s going to take time, but we’re on the road to understanding what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to addressing litter and waste in a single community. We’ll be there over a sustained period so we’ll really get under the skin of the issues.
To find out more about the project, take a look at the website at www.itsnowornever.org.uk.
The UK has a serious litter problem. Take a look around you – every village, town, city, beach and roadside is blighted with the lazy leftovers of our daily lives.
We’ve been wrestling hard with how to properly ignite the conversation about litter and the damage it does.
In particular, we need to get to young women and men, age 16-30, who don’t even think about litter. This age group, while outwardly professing a love of the planet, recycling and other green issues, over-indexes on littering compared to other age groups.
Its been ages since a national anti-litter campaign ran which changed littering behaviours, the topic of littering gets no airtime with this audience, and any wider efforts to prompt thinking and behaviour change has been largely ineffective.
Litter doesn’t really figure on their radar. Yet.
We had seen the RSPCA stats – they get 5000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. Instinctively, we knew that this must be the tip of the iceberg.
We also knew, from previous research, that talking about hurt and dead animals was one of the only ways to ignite the conversation about litter with our target audience.
And so we began looking hard at the impacts of litter on animals, and with help of the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the pet charity, Blue Cross, we built the bigger, shocking picture. Our campaign ‘Litter Kills’ was born.
We know that the images are shocking – that’s the point. We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter, and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.
We’re supposedly a nation of pet and animal lovers. British households in total host 8.5m dogs and 8m cats. Millions of us care about wildlife and enjoy seeing wild animals where we live, work and play.
Yet our littering habit affects thousands and thousands of animals in a very bad, sometimes fatal, way.
The images we have used are real. In fact, there are countless more we could have chosen from.
If these aren’t enough to convince you, here are just a few real life case studies from our partners:
From Mark Bossley, Chief Veterinary Surgeon at Blue Cross:
”One 17 year old poodle was admitted with a bone from a discarded takeaway lodged in its oesophagus. It needed a general anaesthetic and an endoscopy to remove it. If the owner hadn’t seen it happen and brought the dog straight to us then we might not have been able to save it”
“Chewing gum and other food products containing sweeteners or mouldy food is toxic to pets. There has been a recent case of a dog admitted after eating chewing gum and being poisoned.”
John Fishwick, President, British Veterinary Association, said:
“Littering can be a definite problem for pets, and vets frequently see its unfortunate impact on animals in the form of cuts to paw pads from broken glass or metal cans and illness from scavenging discarded food, included cooked bones. Pets can also fall sick from eating food wrappers or other packaging that has been carelessly thrown away.”
And from the RSPCA:
“A recent case involved a duck with a plastic ring trapped in his bill and around the back of his head. It must have been extremely painful. Unfortunately we had to put it to sleep at the scene to prevent further suffering.
It’s really shocking and sad to see wildlife suffer in this way, when it could have been easily preventable. This is why we always ask people to please dispose of their rubbish responsibly.”
So there can be no doubt.
It’s time to act.
Litter Kills has been launched as part of our groundbreaking ‘Now or Never’ campaign which has just kicked off in Leamington Spa.
We’ve partnered with the Local Government Association (LGA) to table a cross party motion in Parliament, along with a petition asking government to hold gum producers accountable for the huge costs of cleaning chewing gum off streets across our country.
Our local councils currently stump up a total of £60 million a year removing an estimated two million pieces of gum from pavements – money which is desperately needed elsewhere. We’d much rather see it spent on pressing issues such as social care and housing, homelessness and other vital, underfunded community services.
Chewing Gum never biodegrades. It’s hard to find out exactly what’s in most gum bases as the recipes tend to be closely guarded secrets, though most sources mention polymers, the same type of material used to make plastics and rubbers. This goes some way to explaining why this grim, sticky source of pollution needs specialist equipment, and costs a fortune, to remove.
Read the full Daily Telegraph article here.
To sign the petition click here.
*We’re interested to learn more about how synthetic gum bases are made – could they be classed as a single-use plastic? If you can help us understand more please get in touch via the Contact Us form. Thank you!
We’ve been doing lots of thinking about single-use plastic lately. It’s always been a big part of the litter problem – in fact, the UK’s most littered item – cigarette butts – contain thousands of little particles of plastic.
There are more worrying facts out there, many of which you might have read. Here’s a few of the most attention-grabbing:
So the team at Clean Up Britain have been looking at simple ways we can all get started on reducing single-use plastic in our day-to-day lives. Here are the things we’re doing so far:
In some cases we’ve found we’re saving money in the longer term (discounts on coffees, not buying bottles water, not paying for plastic bags at the supermarket) and it’s much easier than we’d thought to make positive and satisfying changes. Why not give some of the ideas above a go yourself?
Stats sources – The Telegraph, Surfers Against Sewage
We’ve designed this educational pack with the help of school kids and a cubs pack, so teachers and community group leaders can deliver a fun and engaging session on the environmental impacts of litter and waste very easily and with little prep.
The contents have been successfully tried and tested with KS2 (ages 8-11) and help them really understand:
The resources can easily be delivered in an hour. If you want to, sessions can be made longer by spending more time discussing the facts, designing anti-litter posters or getting out and doing a litter pick.
The resources also include a pledge certificate and some suggestions for the promises kids can make having completed the learning. We’ve given some ideas such as ‘I promise never to drop litter’, ‘I won’t release helium balloons’ or ‘I’ll buy fewer drinks in plastic bottles’. We encourage kids to make these pledges with support of their family to get the discussion going at home too.
We’re always keen to hear your feedback and have now started work on resources for use with older age groups. Watch this space.
Download the leader notes and resources pack using the links below:
You may have seen that we’ve recently commented on the Highways England Funnel Bin project in the press.
We’ve had some passionate feedback – both supporting and challenging our comments. Thank you to everyone who has fed back – we appreciate the time you’ve taken to do so.
We thought we’d write about the bigger picture. It’s almost impossible to present important detail in a few minutes of radio show or a TV clip which has been thoroughly edited!
At Clean Up Britain we completely agree that more bins are generally a good thing when the right type of bins are put in the right places and emptied often enough so they don’t overflow.
That said, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in litter for a few years now and, unsurprisingly, it’s a complex topic for which the solutions are not straightforward.
Through our work and lobbying we’ve learnt that to properly address our growing litter problem a multi-pronged, long-term approach is needed. A combination of campaigning and communications, education, innovation, consistent enforcement and the right bins in the right places.
In addition, and crucially, we have to challenge the ‘social norm’ that it’s ok to litter. There’s loads of research on this particular topic. Warwick Business School did a nice summary:
‘One way social proof manifests itself is through observing the results of past behaviour. If there is a lot of litter on the ground it means that littering is a normal and accepted behaviour. Therefore, environments that are clean will nudge people to use bins, whereas environments that are unclean will nudge them to litter more’*
Our friend Peter Silverman of Clean Highways has been campaigning tirelessly to motivate Highways England who he asserts fail to comply with their statutory duty to keep their land clear of litter and refuse. Do have a look at his website to see the extent of his challenge and his work.
We also had a couple of practical concerns – so many people who buy food from services eat in transit, so extra bins aren’t necessarily capturing the rubbish that ultimately ends up on verges away from rest stops. Also, some of us are a pretty bad aim – which potentially means a litter problem in itself is created as people miss and the wind does its job.
Of course we support all positive action to address litter and agree that the problem lies largely with the person who drops it. However, a balance needs to be struck in public discussion on the topic and the bigger picture acknowledged. What we really need is long term plans, investment and commitment to address the fact that motorway verges the length and breadth of Britain are strewn with litter.
We promise to keep campaigning and lobbying for a holistic approach to address our litter problem. We’re a member of the government’s Litter Advisory Group and continue to meet with civil servants, parliamentarians and Ministers in an effort to help drive long-term change.
If you’re interested you can read the Litter Strategy for England here.
We’ve also embarked on a further program of work to practically address some of the needs we see as priority, which we hope to be able to go public on early next year. As we progress feel free to hold us to account, ask us questions, give us challenges. We will always listen and respond.
You can also help:
Check back on the website where we will keep our news updated and publish more details of how our supporters can help as time goes on.
Many thanks, the team at Clean Up Britain.
*Dur & Vollaard, 2013; Finnie, 1973; Geller, Witmer, & Tuso, 1977; Krauss, Freedman, & Whitcup, 1978; Reiter & Samfuel, 1980
We’re really pleased to be backing another positive step from Starbucks as it further commits to reducing impact on the environment.
Starbucks has announced that they are to partner with Pentatonic in an innovative design partnership to create furniture, tiles and textiles out of store waste.
Pentatonic is a newly launched furniture company whose products are made using post-consumer waste such as plastic bottles, plastic cups and paper straws. As part of Starbucks plan to decrease its environmental footprint, this collaboration focuses on store design and involves a new sustainable take on the iconic ‘Bean Chair’, currently found in stores nationwide. The partnership is just one of several environmental design projects to be unveiled this September by Pentatonic in its pop-up store during the London Design Festival.
Jaime Hall, Co-Founder of Pentatonic said:
“Partnering with Starbucks to build furniture and materials out of their own waste is a major demonstration of how scale can be a force for good. By taking the iconic Bean Chair design and re-engineering it using trash, it further illustrates the unlimited application possibilities of post-consumer waste. With Pentatonic’s technology and Starbucks commitment to a greener future, the potential impact of our partnership is truly significant for the planet.”
To launch the partnership, Pentatonic and Starbucks have also collaborated on a pop-up bar constructed entirely from its own waste materials. The bar will reside within Pentatonic’s Shoreditch pop-up and will be open from the 15 September to 12 October serving Nitro Cold Brew and Chemex brewed coffee. Excitingly all proceeds will be donated to Clean up Britain to enable us to continue our campaigning and embark on some fantastic new projects. You can visit the project at The Old Synagogue, 2 Chance Street (entrance on Whitby Street) London E1 6JT.
September 15-October 12, 12.00-19.00 daily
We wanted to find a different to bring to life the negative impacts litter can have – something attention-grabbing, colourful and really informative. Something we hope you will want to look at, share and discuss.
So here it is! Designed by the superb illustrator Dan The Scribbler we’re finding it particularly useful in schools, the bigger the print out the better!
Please feel free to download (using the link below), print and share.
We’re proud to officially support Starbucks who will be giving away 18,500 reusable cups on Earth Day – 22nd April 2017.
As our supporters will know, we strongly believe in long-term sustainable change. Every day millions of paper cups are used for just minutes before going straight to landfill or becoming litter. They’re manufactured from virgin paper pulp and less than 1% of the estimated 2.5 billion we get through every year are currently recycled.
The reusable cup giveaway is launched in the same week as a new awareness message on cup sleeves ‘Reuse to Reduce’ and accompanies the long-standing 25p discount offered to customers using a reusable cup – an incentive Starbucks has had in place for over a decade.
Testing different approaches to encourage and enable people to use reusable cups is an extremely positive step and we are proud to support efforts to promote reusable cups, and understand what prompts people to make the switch.
It won’t be easy – and will take time – but it’s great to see one of the world’s biggest coffee companies seeking solutions to this challenge.
Simon Redfern, vice president communications for Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa said;
“With today’s giveaway we are inviting our customers to try to create a new cup habit and help reduce our impact on the environment. We are continuing our efforts with industry partners to find a sustainable and safe long term solution.”
The reusable cups will be given away in participating stores across Great Britain. To find your nearest store in England, Scotland and Wales please visit: https://www.starbucks.co.uk/store-locator – available whilst stocks last.
‘Westminster . . . we have a problem.” I’m not referring to Brexit negotiations or the pressures on the NHS. It is something seemingly much more mundane, but corrosive to communities all over the country: the deluge of litter and fly-tipping.
When you’re walking or driving this week take extra notice of your surroundings — roadside verges, pavements, parks, high streets. Clean Up Britain’s theory is that people have become so used to seeinglitter and waste that they are now inured to it.
However, councils spend almost £1 billion a year cleaning it up — an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money that could be far better spent on social services, playgrounds and the like.
Today, for the first time, the government has published a national litter strategy. It doesn’t go far enough. Fines for drivers and passengers who throw litter out of vehicles should be at least £200 — the same amount that has recently been introduced for drivers caught using their mobile phones.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the “litter minister”, needs to have the courage to do much more to tackle the problem. If he does he will be applauded by the vast majority of citizens who are sick of having their local communities environmentally desecrated. If not, he will deserve contempt.
The problem was well summed-up by Sean Lawson, director of environmental services at Rugby borough council, when giving evidence in parliament: “We often do not associate [litter] widely enough in terms of the impact it has on social cohesion and the economic vitality of areas. We think ‘It’s just litter’. We really do need to shift how we think about litter.” He’s absolutely right.
Apart from making our green and pleasant land a permanent eyesore, litter costs us a fortune to clean up, injures and kills animals that ingest it and discourages investment and tourism. There is a growing body of evidence that it causes depression.
The only sustainable answer to the problem is long-term behavioural change. Much like drink-driving, we need to make littering socially unacceptable. If the government’s promise to leave this land in a better environmental state than it inherited is to mean anything then its national litter strategy cannot turn out to be a damp squib.
Read the original article here.
We’re extremely pleased that the government’s first National Litter Strategy has been published.
Having been working on the National Litter Advisory Group we’re confident that the strategy will create a strong platform from which positive cultural changes can be made.
The strategy states:
‘Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it found it. We are clear that we must act now to clean up the country and change our culture so that it is no longer acceptable to drop litter.’
There’s a lot to do – pleasingly the strategy is pretty comprehensive. You can read it here.
We’re particularly pleased that, amongst other commitments, the strategy promises to:
– Deliver a world class national anti‐littering campaign
– Review the case for increasing the fixed penalties for littering (and related offences)
– Regulate to allow English councils to fine the keeper of a vehicle from which litter is thrown
– Facilitate strong and consistent anti‐litter education
– Empower local communities to channel their passion for their local environment into positive action
– Recognise and reward the contribution of volunteers to tackling litter
– Support the packaging industry in improving product and packaging design to deter littering
– Support national clear‐up days
And so the important first step is taken. We’re determined that the strategy will set the framework for fundamental change – change which will hugely benefit our communities, environment and wildlife and save us taxpayers money which will be better spent where really needed.
Watch this space for our updates as the work really begins.
In the meantime, if you want to take action yourself, see our blog post ‘How you can help’.
Driving change is only something we can do with the help and support of people like you. Any action you take to raise awareness and help tackle the issue is valuable. Who knows, you might even become a fully obsessed litter activist!
Below we’ve listed some ways you can help and get involved. Drop us a line and let us know how you get on – we’d love to hear from you.
Simply pick up a bit of litter every day*
When people see you doing it, stand proud and keep going. What you’re doing is helping to create a new social norm. Research shows that if people see others picking up litter they are less likely to drop it themselves (and may even start picking it up).
Make a stand on social media
Like us on Facebook and share posts which you feel strongly about.
Follow and share on Twitter: @cleanupbritain
Download Littergram and help us build a litter map of Britain. If you can, post to social media to drive even more awareness of the problem.
Talk about the issue with your friends, family, local school or community group
Raising awareness is a great way to start influencing change. Check out our hideous litter stats blog post which should give you plenty to discuss……!
Join or start a local litter pick
There’s information and support at http://www.litteraction.org.uk where you’ll find everything you need to know and connect with existing groups in your area.
Here you can also quickly learn about how to use a Litter Abatement Order to force local litter hotspots to be addressed. Really powerful stuff.
Start a dialogue with the council
If litter starts to build up things will only get worse. It’s well known that clean, well loved spaces are more likely to stay that way. The reverse is also true. Encouraging your local council to maintain clean spaces helps get the battle won. Littergram can help you with this! Don’t give up!
And if you’re really bonkers ask us about www.cleanuphitchin.co.uk – a community project run by a member of the Clean Up Britain team….
Finally, keep checking back on the Clean Up Britain website as we’re currently developing some fun, easy-to-deliver content for use in schools.
*It goes without saying that your health and safety is top priority so be careful of anything sharp, particularly dirty or otherwise grim which might pose a hazard to your health.
Litter facts and stats – here’s some of the most insightful and depressing we’ve come across. Feel free to share!
In the UK, levels of litter have increased 500% in the last 50 years (1).
It costs the UK £1bn to clear litter EVERY YEAR (2). Money which could be spent on things to really benefit society. Think of the good it could do in our struggling NHS…
A poor-quality local environment can also have wider impacts on public health, including mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. On the flip side, living near good quality, accessible green space can improve mental and physical health (3).
Wildlife suffers the consequences, as do our pets. The RSPCA receive over 7,000 phone calls a year about animals who have eaten or been injured by litter (4). They think that the real number is much higher as most owners go straight to vets and many wild animals who suffer aren’t found.
Plastics, polystyrene cups and discarded packaging are choking river habitats but tend to be hidden at the bottom of the water so go unnoticed. Decomposing plastic can release toxic chemicals which are then passed through the food chain.
Rivers and storm drains carry inland litter out to sea. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean and 2,500 items of rubbish for every kilometre on our beaches (5).
An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste is added to the oceans every year and most plastic never biodegrades. It breaks down into smaller pieces known as micro-plastics. Large pieces can trap animals and smaller pieces are often eaten (6).
Litter thrown from cars causes accidents when people swerve to miss something flying towards their car, run over or hit something in the road. It’s estimated that the cost of accidents caused by litter in the UK is in the region of £8m (7).
Picking litter from the side of the road is a really dangerous job – people have been killed doing it. No-one would have to take the risk if other’s simply took their rubbish home. Some councils deem it too dangerous to clear verges on certain roads so it’s just left to build up.
Sources: 1 & 2: Local Government Association. 3: Ellway et al, 2009. 4: RSPCA. 5: Surfers Against Sewage. 6: University of California. 7: Highways England.
Most of us all have a load of old stuff we need to get rid of and it’s not always easy to get to the tip. Paying someone else to take it away for you is often a nice solution, especially when you lead a busy life or don’t have a huge car boot…
However, as fly tipping becomes an increasing problem it’s often down to us regular folks who, unwittingly, pay rogue traders to ‘dispose’ of our waste.
It’s simple to take these idiots out of the picture – a quick check to see if they have a waste carrier permit is all it takes. Doubly important as, by law, you are responsible for getting your waste disposed of legally and can face a huge fine if you don’t.
IT’S REALLY EASY TO CHECK – you can either:
Call the Environment Agency and ask – 03708 506 506 (cost is the same as a call to a landline number and if you have inclusive minutes with your phone it’s free to call).
Or check on-line here.
You’ll need the person or business name or registration number – if they are legitimate they should be very happy to give you both.
The costs of litter are significant and varied. The annual cost of picking up litter across the UK is close to £1 billion , eighty-one percent of British people say that seeing litter on the streets makes them frustrated and angry and spending time in places that appear uncared for may result in damage to community spirit .
The huge environmental impact is hard to truly quantify. We do know that the RSPCA receives over 7000 calls a year about wildlife ingesting and being injured by litter and a recent analysis estimated that, by 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans . Plastic litter on beaches has increased 140% since 1994 and microplastic particles are now found inside filter feeding animals and amongst sand grains on our beaches.
It’s a sad and worsening picture, and with litter levels up 500% in the last 50 years a new approach needs to be taken.
Behavioural science is being used in all sorts of areas of public life and Professor Daniel Read, of the Behavioural Science Group at WBS, believes it can be used to help the country’s litter problem.
Professor Read said: “Littering is a socially undesirable behaviour that is highly amenable to being managed using methods from behavioural science.
“Most people don’t actively want to litter, but do so because it is convenient, because they see other people doing it, and often because they don’t think about what they are doing.
“In partnership with Clean Up Britain we hope to use behavioural insights to change how people think about littering and, more importantly, how they behave.”
’Using behavioural insights to reduce littering in the UK’ written by Julia Kolodko and Umar Taj, takes a look at potential nudges and interventions to change the behaviour and attitudes of litterers in the UK. You can download it here.
This month our Patron Jeremy Paxman wrote a passionate piece which featured in the Daily Mail, calling for the government to back a plastic bottle deposit return scheme.
Deposit return schemes already exist in many other counties and see customers pay a small cash deposit as part of the price of a drink in a plastic bottle. They get the money back when they return the item to a collection point.
There are strong arguments for supporting a UK deposit return scheme, not least the potential positive impacts on litter, landfill and recycling rates.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) however have said a policy is “unlikely”, although “not off the table”.
Up until this week a major part part of the challenge was the position of industry and drinks manufacturers who will bear significant cost should a scheme be introduced. However Coca-Cola have now publicly committed to exploring the introduction of a deposit return scheme:
“Our sustainable packaging review is ongoing, but it’s already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit return scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway.
“We’ve also been talking to and listening to our consumers and know two thirds (63%) of them support the introduction of a deposit return system in the UK, and half (51%) say they’d be more likely to recycle as a result. From our experience elsewhere in Europe, we know that deposit schemes can work if they are developed as part of an overall strategy on the circular economy, in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. We are open to exploring any well-thought-through initiative that has the potential to increase recycling and reduce litter.’
We will be keeping close to developments and post updates as progress is made.
Jeremy spoke at the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) Environment Seminar, on behalf of Clean Up Britain and called on major brands to change the way the public interacts with waste packaging.
“Litter is the sort of advertising that nobody wants,” Jeremy said. “If the sides of the roads are littered with rubbish baring your logo, then you have got a problem.
“What we need to do most of all is to change the way people behave. Businesses have to make dumping litter socially unacceptable in the same way that drink driving now is. It is increasingly clear that the only way for us to win the war on litter is for all of us to come together in a far more integrated way.
“We need a coordinated, collaborative initiative involving environment boards and companies, trade unions and the private sector. I don’t think the Government will help, they’ve already failed us.”
Jeremy noted that the amount of litter in the UK had increased by around 500% over the past 50 years, and last year alone, local authorities across the UK spent more than £1bn on removing litter from our streets.
He called on the private sector to fund behavioural change campaigns that will not only reduce public littering, but “will get Government to jump on the bandwagon of a successful collaborative initiative”.
“Keep Scotland Beautiful has worked with Clean Up Britain on a number of anti-litter initiatives in recent years and a productive working partnership has been established. This partnership allows for information exchange, research and strategy development in relation to litter prevention, and has been very positive. We are keen to continue working together through 2017 and beyond.”
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
We are thrilled to partner with Littergram who harness the power of smart phones and social media to help clean up Britain. Download their brilliant app and join a community of like-minded people taking action on our growing litter problem.
LitterGram works closely with councils to help them address the issues app users highlight. Their cutting edge technology is available for free to all 433 councils across the country.
We are proud to have joined forces with Warwick Business School, which has the biggest Behavioural Science Group in Europe, to use nudge theory to help address environmental issues.
Based on theories from behavioural science, nudges have been used to solve a range of issues from persuading more people to pay their taxes on time to encouraging households have their lofts insulated.
Read our report ‘Using behavioural insights to reduce littering in the UK’
"The trash and litter of nature disappears into the ground with the passing of each year, but man’s litter has more permanence."
- John Steinbeck
"Each and every one of us can make changes in the way we live our lives and become part of the solution."
- Al Gore
"We can continue to foul the nest we all share. Or we can decide to do something about it."
- Jeremy Paxman
"I’m ashamed, embarrassed and angry about the amount of litter in Britain. Bluntly, our country is a filthy disgrace. Could it be different? Of course it could."
- Clive Betts MP
"Britain has the worst litter problem in the developed world. It’s bad for the spirit to walk through filth."
- David Sedaris