SOAPBOX

Ron gets on his Soapbox to bewail the lack of local Authority attempts to enforce litter regulations

Litter.

Everybody I speak to hates to see litter lying about and they are horrified at the extent to which our town pavements are covered with spots of chewing gum, most young people that I speak to feel equally strongly on this issue. So who is responsible? It does seem to be more of a problem in Britain than elsewhere in Europe. Many other countries outside of Europe also manage to succeed in keeping their environment cleaner. I am told that in some far eastern countries the penalties for dropping litter, including cigarette ends and chewing gum are much more severe, in Singapore, so I am told, it is even an offence to chew chewing gum in public places although, if it is true, that does seem to be an extreme measure. Nevertheless the strict enforcement of laws associated with heavy penalties does seem to work. In Britain we do have a law against dropping litter but it seems that it is rarely enforced. The failure to enforce laws generally does appear to be an increasing problem in the UK, whether this is because of a failure on the part of the police or whether it is because the penalties imposed are so trivial as to make prosecution not worthwhile I do not know, but something needs to be done. It seems that we, and perhaps the USA, are encumbered with a moronic minority who care little for the environment in which they live and whose behaviour ranges from careless scattering of litter to vandalising and destroying public and private property alike. Why it should be worse for us than in most other Western European countries is a mystery to me.

Fortunately we do not appear to suffer very much in this area with litter louts. Nevertheless, when I went out recently with a small party collecting litter in Wretton I was surprised. We had a good size car trailer into which we put the sacks as they were filled. In just one and a half hours four of us had filled so many sacks that we could not get any more in the trailer. Admittedly some of this litter arose because of the inadequacy of our green boxes. On a windy day plastic bottles, aluminium drink cans, cardboard and paper can be blown out of the boxes, although much of this problem could be avoided if people would take more trouble to flatten plastic bottles and drink cans and take more trouble in packing their boxes. Another area of difficulty was in the playground where, in the absence of litter bins, the youngsters had had nowhere to put their drink cans, crisp packets and sweet wrappers, and we discovered that many had stuffed much of their litter under the wooden train. This had the advantage of keeping it out of sight and stopping it from blowing around, it also made it easier for us to collect.

Even though it might be argued that some of the litter we found was excusable, there remained much evidence of wilful discarding of rubbish. One of the worst examples was down by the bridge in Wretton Fen Road. A group of people had clearly had a barbecue with one of the ‘disposable’ charcoal barbecues. They had set their barbecue up on the grass verge by the roadside. When they had finished they had tossed the burnt out barbecue tray over the fence along with the wrappers from their beefburgers etc and their drink bottles and cans, one bottle I noted was of Bacardi and I expect there were others that had contained high alcohol drinks, so let us hope that it was not children in that group. Needless to say the grass was burned and scorched where they had stood the barbecue. Clearly the appeals that are made regularly to ‘Take your litter home’ and ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ have had little impact on that group. Another puzzling example was a plastic sack filled with cheap plastic toys that had been left against a hedge in a field, it was near a footpath but several hundred yards from any road. Why would anyone do that?

What puzzles me is who do these people expect to clear up their mess? Perhaps they are happy with the thought that nobody will and are content to live in an area with an accumulating amount of litter and rubbish around them.

Ron Watts

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