Report reveals hidden litter costs

Published: Wednesday 3rd December 2014 by The News Editor

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Litter is causing hundreds of millions of pounds a year in “hidden” costs associated with crime and other problems for society, a report has claimed.

In addition to the direct cost of keeping England’s streets clean and tidy, of almost a £1 billion a year, there are indirect costs of litter ranging from punctures caused by broken glass to fire crews called to deal with burning rubbish and wildfires, the study said.

The research for Keep Britain Tidy assessed the consequences of rubbish dropped in streets, neighbourhoods and the countryside, and found potential costs running into hundreds of millions of pounds and hitting everything from livestock to railways.

The contribution of litter to crime was estimated to cost up to £328 million a year, based on evidence which suggested rubbish had a role to play as part of run-down neighbourhoods which encourage criminal activity.

Other indirect costs of litter include affecting mental well-being, the impacts of vermin that rubbish encourages and even lowering house prices, the report form Eumonia Research & Consulting suggests.

As well as causing costs, littering leads to losses to the economy through the value of the materials in rubbish that could have been recycled. If 50% of litter dropped in England was recycled it would have an economic value of at least £14.8 million.

Phil Barton, Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive, said: “It is important that we all understand just how litter and poor local environmental quality can adversely impact on both society and our economy.

“What this report shows is that the actual price we all pay to clean up the rubbish is just the tip of the iceberg.

“More work is needed to fully understand the hidden cost of litter in England is significantly more than the direct costs of keeping our streets clean.”

He said the report should be a wake-up call for businesses and communities, as well as politicians in the run up to the general election.

He added: “Clean streets, parks and beaches should not be seen as a ‘nice to have’. The price we all pay because of litter is too high and prevention of the problem should be seen as a priority for communities, the economy and the environment.”

An Environment Department (Defra) spokeswoman said: “Litter has a huge impact on the quality of our streets and public spaces and we all have a responsibility to keep our communities tidy.

“Government is introducing a charge on plastic bags and supporting initiatives such as the National Litter Prevention Commitment. This encourages business to reduce litter through improved product design and labelling for consumers.

“While we have made great progress in recent years there is still more to be done and we continue to support local authorities as they work to keep our neighbourhoods clean and tidy.

Published: Wednesday 3rd December 2014 by The News Editor

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