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Litter picking is not a sustainable solution for the countryside - we need systemic change to clean up trashed Britain

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Logo: Clean Up Britain
Jeremy Paxman, Patron of Clean Up Britain, talking to 500+ people at the national waste conference at the NEC (Credit: Sybil Ruscoe)
Jeremy Paxman, Patron of Clean Up Britain, talking to 500+ people at the national waste conference at the NEC (Credit: Sybil Ruscoe)

For those people who don’t know us, Clean Up Britain (CLUB) is the only national campaigning organisation that is 100% focused on confronting litter and fly-tipping. We’re a Community Interest Company, and Jeremy Paxman is our Patron. It’s incredibly sad to say, but Britain is the most littered country in the western world.

CLUB is only interested in finding sustainable and effective behavioural change solutions to the litter epidemic afflicting Britain.

Of course, that’s easy to say, but very difficult to achieve. In reality, changing the behaviour of the 20m people in Britain who litter is the only answer. There are hundreds of thousands of very community-spirited people who pick up litter. In the short term, this is great, but it’s also a bit like mopping-up while the taps are still running…. the litter will just keep coming again and again, for ever. Our campaign is about turning the taps off, permanently.

It’s also about getting the government to address the numerous systemic and dysfunctional aspects of the way central and local government function in relation to litter. We ask for - and receive - no funding from government, so we can criticise them on the many things they continue to get wrong in the war on waste…

The infographic below outlines the key things we believe need to happen to ‘clean up Britain’.

Infographic - how to clean up Britain

We’ve recently launched a campaign called ‘Don’t Trash Our Future’ which is calling on the government to increase fines for littering from the current level of £150 (maximum) to £1,000. In addition, we want the government to make it mandatory for every Council to have to enforce the law against littering. At present, 70%+ don’t do it. Quite simply, in relation to litter, Britain is a lawless land. Over 50,000 people have already signed our petition at donttrashourfuture.co.uk

Currently, our other two main campaign objectives are outlined below.

A lobbying campaign to insert a crucial amendment into the Environment Bill

The 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 DEFRA’s 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.

The action we’re taking

We’re 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.

Campaigning for McDonald’s to be legally forced to do much more to educate their customers

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.

The action we’re taking

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.

Logo: Green Champions Award

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.

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.

Finally, last week we launched the Green Champions Award, which we’re delivering along with four leading industry partners.

Quite simply, we're asking - and helping - organisations to achieve the highest standards of environmental behaviour in the way they operate.

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. That’s what the award is all about. More information about this is on our website.

Clean Up Britain works in a very collaborative way, and with many different partners. Our mission is very straightforward (at least in theory!)…. to reverse the rampant litter culture we have in this country, and use all the behavioural tools we have in our armoury to achieve this success. Please do come and join us!

John Read, Founder www.cleanupbritain.org

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