Litter levels rise across England – new KBT report

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 8 August 2018

The UK Litter charity, Keep Britain Tidy (KBT), says there’s been a 4% increase in litter found across England – with smoking litter, confectionary packaging, soft drinks containers and fast food packaging in the top four littered items.

Euro beach litter
© Bo Eide

A good proportion of this litter will of course eventually find its way to our seas

Dr Sue Kinsey,
MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer

KBT has carried out the Local Environmental Quality Survey of England 2017/18 (LEQSE) and published the results every year since 2001. The latest report shows litter at worse levels across England since the last survey in 2014/15, with 14% of sites surveyed not meeting the charity’s acceptable standard for litter.

The survey measures the presence of litter, and it also measures other indicators of cleanliness such as detritus, graffiti and fly-posting. Sites are graded as “acceptable” or not and these grades are used to provide information on the overall cleanliness of England.

Richard Mcilwain, Deputy Chief Executive, Keep Britain tidy, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Everyone talks about the Blue Planet effect and how we’re more environmentally aware but of course what we really want to see is that awareness translated in to action and if anything, at the moment, it seems to be, unfortunately, heading in the other direction”

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, said she’s not surprised by the results which show the need for concrete measures to be put in place rather than relying on information campaigns to stop the increase of littering: “A good proportion of this litter will of course eventually find its way to our seas where it will cause damage to our wildlife, ecosystems and coastal economies as well as increasing the amount of microplastics in our seas.

“We need to see a comprehensive Deposit Return System put in place that covers all sizes and types of drinks containers. There must be bans on certain materials such as polystyrene and black plastic and items such as plastic stemmed cotton buds and taxes on other hard to recycle items such as coffee cups. Plus, there must be a minimum recycled content in products.

“We also need to work towards a genuine circular economy system in the UK where ‘waste’ is valued as a resource and used time and time again rather than polluting our countryside, coasts and seas.”

The report comes just a few weeks after KBT revealed that more than a quarter of people it surveyed admitted to ‘careful littering’ - leaving coffee cups, food containers and cans on window ledges and on top of walls. Of 2,143 people questioned, 27% admitted to this type of littering. The charity has now launched a campaign where signs are put in places where littler is commonly left. It follows a successful trial in town centres across the UK where litter was reduced by up to fifth in some places and up to 57% in others.

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Did you know?…

MCS first launched the Good Beach Guide in 1987 as a book to highlight the woeful state of the UK’s bathing waters

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

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