Monday, March 30, 2015

Don't be a Tosser

I have just returned from a holiday in the French Alps and, as a result, have had the pleasure of driving more than 1,000 miles across France and Switzerland.  I say ‘pleasure’ because that is what it is.  The roads are well maintained, the service stations (or Aires) are clean with good coffee machines and you can cover huge distances relatively quickly.  But the thing that impresses me most of all is the lack of litter.
Contrast that with the journey this side of the Channel to and from the ferry port at Dover.  Setting aside the much higher levels of congestion, as that is simply a function of the level of economic activity and population relative to the size of our country, road works on at least some part of the journey are almost constant and there is hardly a square meter of verge that doesn’t have at least one item of litter on it.
After returning home some volunteers in the village I live in had organised a litter pick on the roads into and out of the village.  In just a couple of hours ten people collected 58 sacks of rubbish – larger cans, fast food containers, cigarette packets, old tyres.  All of this despite the fact that the same verges were cleared of litter only twelve months earlier.
What is it about the British that makes us such a messy lot.  Clearly the French and Swiss manage to resist the temptation to through unwanted items out of the car window.  And in my experience so do the Germans, Belgians, Italians.  Even in America, the ‘land of excess’, roadside litter is nowhere near the problem it is in Britain.
But finally people are starting to fight back.  A number of Town and County Councils across the UK have launched ‘Don’t be a Tosser’ campaigns - the latest being in Northamptonshire. 
The wording of the campaign may seem a little strong, but the truth is that to call people ‘litterlouts’ or ‘litterbugs’ trivialises the act.  Did you know that research suggests that litter in the streets near your home can reduce its value by as much as 12%, that he Highways Agency cleans up more than 180,000 sacks of litter from motorways and A roads every year, that fly-tipping on land owned by Network Rail costs £2.3 million a year to clean and that local authorities in England spend close to a billion pounds a year picking up litter.
That billion pounds is money that could come off your tax bill.  Or alternatively it could be put to better use.  For example, a billion pounds would fund 38,633 social care workers, pay the running costs of 4,400 libraries, or pay for 33,200 additional nurses.
With the looming election there is a possibility you may bump into a prospective parliamentary candidate during the next few weeks.  If so, ask them what they intend to do to reduce littering in your area.

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