MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson: Litter - We all have key part to play

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
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Well done to all the folks across Peterborough who got stuck in as part of the national Clean for the Queen initiative in the last few weeks. Their public spirited commitment to their neighbourhoods has not gone unnoticed and those groups like Keep Britain Tidy who imagined this idea are also to be congratulated. Litter is a major problem across the UK and especially in our city. The city council and Amey do their best to keep up with the growing mountain of litter with modest resources - but I fear it’s a losing battle.

This week, a report by the Marine Conservation Society was published outlining the impact of plastic bottles on our beaches - their number had increased by 43% in just 12 months across the country’s 340 beaches.

Too many pavements and verges in Peterborough are also full of litter, there are too few bins, although it is a crime, littering is tolerated and ignored and seems to be a matter which rarely attracts the attention of the judicial system, except in the most persistent and extreme cases of fly tipping. Only a tiny minority of miscreants are ever brought to book. In 2014, there were 850,000 fly tipping incidents across the country, up from 700,000 in the previous year. We use ten billion supermarket plastic bags a year. We produce 122 tonnes of cigarette butts and other tobacco-related rubbish a day. And why do fast-food eaters treat roads as their bin. A third of drivers also admit to throwing rubbish out of their windows.

We are told that dropping litter is now socially unacceptable but is it?

We need to do more to educate children on the subject, we need tougher penalties to tackle those who litter, higher taxes on businesses who use wasteful and unnecessary packaging and isn’t it time we used social media to name and shame those who simply don’t care about the rubbish they drop and the despoliation of the areas in which they live? In short, we should refuse to accept that our communities should be allowed to be filthy and litter strewn and we need a proper plan to sort this issue out starting today. Spitting too is disgusting and anti-social and should not be permitted with impunity.

Litter is ubiquitous: The authorities, the legal system and education can do only so much. Public opinion, the concept of shame and a sense of pride in our city must also play its part in our struggle to conquer the scourge of litter.