I read recently that 27 per cent of us are ‘careful litterers,’ a phrase coined by Keep Britain Tidy to describe what we do when we leave used food packaging stacked neatly next to a bench or on a wall, says Green Party city councillor Julie Howell.
Presumably, this doesn’t feel quite as naughty as throwing our rubbish in a bush. In the mind of the careful litterer, whoever eventually clears the rubbish away will at least appreciate the consideration taken to make it ‘easier’ to collect. A strange logic. Littering is littering.
What about ‘careful fly-tipping?’ We’re accustomed to thinking of fly-tipping as a clandestine activity. Strangers in white vans come to mind. People who don’t live around here who ply their illegal trade pretending to be licensed waste carriers only to take our money and dump our rubbish on farmland or on a street corner.
In truth, the white van fly-tipper is not responsible for most of the fly-tip in our communities, we are. Not a day goes by when I don’t receive emails from people who have seen a neighbour dump an unwanted piece of furniture, garden fence, pot of paint or kitchen sink where it’s not supposed to be dumped: in the street, in the woods or (the favourite spot) behind the back garden fence. Careful placement of things you no longer have a need for behind you garden fence is fly-tipping. It doesn’t matter how neatly it is stacked or how long you mean to leave it there. It’s fly-tipping. So is adding your rubbish to a pile that is already there.
I’m keen to help bring about an end to all fly-tipping in my community. So with the help of residents we’re trying something different. We now patrol areas that are most often used by fly-tippers. When we come across fly-tip we attach a bright yellow sticker to it and report it to the council. These stickers serve several purposes. They show that people in the community care about fly-tipping and want it to stop. They serve as an in-situ reminder that fly-tipping is illegal. They also list information about the parish council’s next free bulky waste collection, an easy and legal way to get rid of rubbish.
The stickers themselves are not really the point, however. The point is the conversations the stickers have started. Fly-tip and how to deal with it is a hot topic in Orton. Residents have sheets of stickers so they can slap one onto that abandoned fridge as soon as it appears on their street. The idea has been grasped with enthusiasm.
No amount of stickering will deter some people from doing the wrong thing with their rubbish, and those that persist should be fined. There are people who don’t care and will never care. But by working as a community to keep our streets clear of fly-tip we send out a message that it is socially unacceptable to fly-tip and that social pressure may be the thing that brings about an end to fly-tipping for good.