Litter – Government needs to lead

Dick Searle1smallIf I had a penny for the number of times that packaging has been scapegoated for the social scourge of litter I would be a rich man.

Let me restate the obvious. Litter is a human and social problem. Packaging is a product delivery solution; increasingly necessary, fundamental and environmental in our world of shrinking and finite resources. Thankfully, in recent years, society has learned that it is a time-consuming mistake to conflate these two.

However, and despite considerable advances to the contrary, human beings still contrive to create litter from packaging.

The UK’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee has been conducting its own inquiry into the matter. Last month The Packaging Federation was pleased to supply it with evidence and with recommendations.

Chief among our recommendations is the message that we need a UK Government strategy on litter; one that would do well to follow the pioneering work of the Scottish legislature. All stakeholders should work together and all litter campaigns should work together. This has not always been the case and an unfortunate amount of public duplication and disagreement has arisen in recent times. A clear and common Government strategy will serve to remove this counter-productive competition between alternative campaigns.

Litter education from an early age is to be encouraged as part of citizenship teaching. The UK has a great trailblazer in this regard with the Little Angels movement, led by Gordon Henderson MP and we should ensure that schools have every opportunity to teach the subject. Work should also continue on practical means for waste disposal. Littering should not be confused with recycling and litter bin design should be reviewed so that product deficiencies do not create litter loopholes or excuses.

As my readers will know, I hold no brief whatsoever for the ‘nanny state’ but litter policing should also be vigorously enforced. It remains a fact that well-publicized prosecutions help to ensure that our public environment continues to improve and to approach the standards of the best worldwide.

As we said last month to the Select Committee ‘litter is not a symptom of the throwaway society. It is a symptom of the behaviour of a section of society which chooses to ignore the societal norms which the rest of us support and cherish.’

Our Government needs to take a lead on this matter – and we need to support it.

Many thanks

Dick Searle