Litter strategy draws mixed response from waste experts

A National Litter Strategy for England was launched on 10 April, committing the Government to measures such as a “world class” behavioural change campaign in 2018, more effective forms of enforcement for offences, and greater levels of collaboration with the retail and packaging supply chain.

HM Government Litter Strategy for England April 2017

The strategy includes a proposal to introduce fines for serious litterers of up to £150. Local authorities will also be able to issue penalty change notices to the registered owner of a vehicle if litter has been thrown from it.
Councils will be issued with new guidance to support the improvement of public litter bins, both their design and distribution, to make it easier for people to avoid littering.

At the same time, the document calls on councils to stop charging householders for disposal of DIY waste, as legally this is supposed to be free.

Another element of the strategy is the creation of a new expert group by Defra, inviting participation from the retail supply chain and waste sector. It will look at ways of cutting litter from things like drinks containers and fast food packaging. Coca-Cola and Viridor are among firms which have so far accepted places.

While not directly criticising the voluntary nature of this participation, the CIWM’s Colin Church, speaking to the CIWM Journal, said: “It is important that the Government remains behind the commitment expressed by Lord Gardiner in his foreword that further regulation is not being ruled out ‘if that is what is required to achieve real change.’.”

Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton welcomed the strategy, and looked forward to “seeing some ambitious targets from the Government and effective monitoring to ensure that the Strategy makes the measurable difference we all want to see”. Clean Up Britain’s founder John Read said the Government deserved “immense credit” for its commitment to behavioural change around litter, “to make it socially unacceptable”.

But otherwise he criticised the strategy  as “timid”. He called on measures to ensure companies who contribute to the litter problem make a contribution to cleaning it up, such as chewing gum producer Wrigley’s, which he said was responsible for “tens of millions of pounds environmental damage every year”.

His comments echoed a sentiment from many waste experts – a slight puzzlement over where the money was going to be found from already over-stretched council coffers.

Church of the CIWM broadly welcomed the proposals, while highlighting “areas where further work and evidence is needed”. He felt the issue of charging at HRWCs for DIY waste was “an ongoing discussion”, and said: “It is important in the context of current budget pressures that local authorities do not end up carrying the cost for wastes that should have been borne by a contractor. Changes to the law must not provide loopholes that allow commercial operators to avoid their waste Duty of Care and legal responsibilities”.