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Public anger over Government’s lack of action on Britain’s litter epidemic



 New research from the UK’s leading behaviour change charity, Hubbub, reveals British public anger about the increasing amount of litter in their local area. The British people are calling on the government to take more action to address the litter problem.

Thirty million tonnes of litter are collected from Britain’s streets every year with the clean up costing British taxpayers a staggering £1 billion.

The survey, conducted by Populus on behalf of Hubbub, highlighted people’s frustration at the Government’s inaction, on the day that results of the Neat Streets Campaign are presented to Government. The Neat Streets campaign has been trialling innovative new techniques to encourage people to dispose of their litter responsibly.

– 81% of Brits say that seeing litter on the streets in their local area makes them feel angry and frustrated.

– 90% say that littering is an issue nowadays not just in cities, but in towns and throughout the countryside.

– 73% think that not enough is being done to address the litter problem.

– 76% say that the Government needs to do more to address the amount of litter on our streets and in the countryside across the UK.

When asked what they would like to see more of in their area, the public were clear on what needs to happen next – which included raising awareness of the issues and creating community initiatives so people feel they have a part to play in addressing the problem:

The research shows that the public doesn’t feel that existing ways to prevent litter are working. Instead litter louts should be named and shamed and littering classified as anti-social behaviour.

– 72% think that fines for dropping litter are not enough to deter litter louts.

– 70% that if litter louts were named and shamed that would deter them from littering.

– 89% say that dropping litter should be viewed as anti social behaviour.

Hubbub, the behavior change charity addressing sustainability issues, launched Neat Streets to tackle the growing problem of litter on our streets. Launched in Westminster, Villiers Street (near Charing Cross station) in the heart of London, the area known to have the most rubbish on its streets, has been home to a series of interactive installations from ‘talking bins’ to ‘naked bin men’ to trial new ways of encouraging people not to litter.

Keep Britain Tidy, who conducted baseline research on Villiers Street ahead of the Neat Streets campaign, has been monitoring the impact of the creative initiatives:

– By October, the amount of litter counted on the street had dropped by 26% compared to May.

– The amount of chewing gum discarded decreased substantially in the months that Neat Streets focused on gum initiatives and then returned to normal levels in the following month, demonstrating the need for sustained activity.

– Cigarette littering decreased during the six months, with the biggest dip in September corresponding to the month of cigarette litter prevention activities, with 29% of correct disposals corresponding to people using the bright yellow voting bins.

– Behavioural observations suggest that rates of littering have decreased by 16% from before to during the campaign.

Following the success of Neat Streets Hubbub will now be rolling out the Neat Streets campaign to three new areas – including two towns and one rural location – in the UK.

Jeremy Paxman, Patron Clean Up Britain, and supporter of Neat Streets campaign, said: “It’s abundantly clear that the threat of being fined is simply not enough of a deterrent to people who drop litter. The Government needs to put litter higher on their agenda and actually take decisive action on the shocking state of Britain’s streets and countryside. Together – as part of a collaborative national campaign – we need to change the behaviour of people who litter, that’s the only sustainable solution to Britain’s chronic litter problem.”

Trewin Restorick, CEO and Founder of Hubbub said: “We believe Neat Streets has been a huge success in raising awareness of littering and finding creative solutions that make the public engage in their environment. Community is important as littering affects everybody – where we live, work and socialise.”

“People get very angry about litter and are open to new ways to keep our environments litter free and the Government needs to take action. We hope that the encouraging results from the Villiers Street will be replicated and our fresh, creative approach to behaviour change will encourage people to think again before they drop litter.”

We need to break the cycle – rubbish on the streets encourages others to drop litter and often people do it when they don’t think they will be caught:

– 82% think that having litter on the streets encourages other people to drop litter.

– 93% say that littering shows a lack of respect for the environment around us.

– 73% think that litter is more likely to happen when no-one else is around.

– However, people do not feel in a position to confront the litter offenders, 61% said that they would be afraid to confront people who drop litter.

– 44% say that they often end up clearing up other people’s litter.

Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice President, Veolia UK and Ireland said “Getting the public to think twice before they litter is key to tackling this problem. Humour is a great way of changing people’s behaviours but unfortunately this is only one street in London and the problem is much bigger than this. We hope to expand this scheme across our UK street cleaning contracts so that littering becomes the exception, not the norm.”

To coincide with the report, Hubbub is launching a Litter Manifesto calling on government, business and local organisations, to take action to make local spaces cleaner, safer, and more inviting.

Putting a Lid on Litter – Five Point Manifesto

We need to work together to make sure that the areas in which we live and work are cleaner, safer, and more inviting.

Let’s all put litter in its place:

Government: Don’t loiter on litter. Create a strategy that has teeth. Show leadership by providing or stimulating funding. Engage with the signatories of the Litter Prevention Commitment to create a robust plan winning widespread support.

Businesses, NGO’s and Local Authorities: Move litter up the agenda. Act with a unified voice to push litter up the agenda with government and the public. Share bright ideas and support innovative, collaborative behaviour change schemes nationwide.

Local Organisations: Create new coalitions, take community action on litter.

Business Improvement Districts take a leadership role and share results so that successes can be replicated elsewhere.

Public: join the discussion and create debate – this is a serious issue that costs taxpayers more than £1billion per year. Help us tackle the issue, capture the imagination of the public, hold people to account, and promote pride in our local areas.

Everyone: Litter is in your hands, stop littering full stop. We are all litter bugs in one way shape or form, and things will only change if we change our behaviours. So start taking care of all your litter from chewing to cigarette butts, to free newspapers, create a home for your litter.

Current Manifesto supporters include: Clean Up Britain (CLUB) CIWM – Clean Britain, Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Marine Conservation Society

Beer and Pub Association, British Soft Drinks Association, British Plastics Federation, Industry Council for research on Packaging & the Environment (INCPEN), McDonald’s, Packaging Federation, Packaging and Film Association (PAFA), PlasticsEurope, PwC, Veolia, The Wrigley Company Ltd.

Trewin Restorick, CEO/Founder of Hubbub said: “Littering affects us all – making our local spaces dirtier, less welcoming, and encouraging anti-social behavior – and it’s up to all of us to take action to tackle it. Hubbub is seeking to create a fresh approach to fighting litter making it easier for government, businesses and local organisations to work effectively together.

“We have found the best new approaches from around the world and have launching Neat Streets with a series of interactive installations throughout the summer to engage the public, raise awareness of littering and ultimately to change people’s behaviour.”


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