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Westminster joins forces with businesses and residents to launch anti-litter project

Fri, 22/05/2015

Westminster City Council has teamed up with Hubbub, a new charity that uses different “hubs” of activity to interest mainstream consumers in sustainability issues, to launch Neat Streets to tackle the growing problem of litter on our streets. Launching in Westminster, there will be a series of interactive installations and exhibitions over the summer in Villiers Street (near Charing Cross railway station) that will trial new ways of encouraging people not to litter.

New research by Populus shows that the public believe littering is getting worse: over half (51%) think more people drop litter now than did so 10 years ago – while only 21% think it has improved.

To tackle littering, the public favours encouraging individuals to change behaviour, rather than increasing fines or council spending. Three-in-five believe that making littering as socially unacceptable as drink-driving (59%) and more bins (60%) are the most effective ways of reducing littering. Only 37% say the police should impose higher fines for littering, and just 18% say councils should spend more money on cleaning up litter.

Other stats show that;

  • the public overwhelmingly believe dropping litter is a disgusting habit (86%) – 66% strongly agree – and that litter on the streets encourages other people to drop litter (83%)
  • a majority (54%) would like to confront someone they saw dropping litter but would not have the nerve – only 15% would do so
  • 79% agree that people are more likely to drop litter when there’s no-one else about, while 50% agree that people are more likely to drop litter outside of their own neighbourhood
  • the types of litter people are most annoyed by are half-eaten food or fast food packaging (53%), followed by litter thrown out of a car window (45%), litter left in green places (42%), used chewing gum (42%), empty drinks cans and bottles (42%)
  • people believe that the most effective ways of discouraging litter are making littering as socially unacceptable as drink-driving (59%) and more bins (60%), rather than higher fines (37%) or council spending (18%)

Building on this, Westminster City Council is working closely with Hubbub to pioneer a new approach to tackling litter through Neat Streets, with a view to seeing what will work elsewhere in the city and the UK.

A report by the Communities and Local Government Committee in March 2015 found that fast food litter and fly-tipping in England has increased by 20% in the last year, and that litter levels have not reduced for 12 years. Dealing with the problem costs taxpayers around £850m a year, demonstrating the need for new thinking on tackling litter.

Despite the strong feelings about litter, only 15% would confront someone they saw dropping it – a majority (54%) would like to but would not have the nerve. Older people are most likely to confront those who litter, with one-in-five of those over 65 saying they would intervene (19%) compared to fewer than one-in-ten (9%) of young people aged 18-24.

The first Neat Streets installations will be introduced ahead of the launch on May 22nd and will include;

  • a street gallery of ‘My Street is Your Street’ posters to build a sense of pride in the area
  • gumdrop on-the-go bins for chewing gum
  • a ‘talking rubbish’ interactive bin
  • a ‘Peppermint Pointillist’ art installation, where people can dispose of chewing gum on crosses to reveal faces.

To coincide with the launch of Neat Streets, Hubbub is releasing its Litter Manifesto calling on government, business and local organisations to take action to make local spaces cleaner, safer and more inviting. Backers of the manifesto include PwC, Wrigley, the Packaging Federation, INCPEN and the British Soft Drinks Association.

Cllr Richard Beddoe, Westminster City Council cabinet member for city management, said: “Litter is a scourge on our streets, and we all need to take responsibility for tackling it. The council works incredibly hard to keep the streets clean for our 240,000 residents, and the millions of visitors and businesses that populate our city every day.

“But we should never stand still, so it is right that we look at new and innovative ideas. By teaming up with the private sector through local businesses and groups, we hope this pilot project will enable everyone to understand the challenges, and show how we can work together to combat them.”

Last updated: 5 August 2016