People have no idea of the sheer scale of the problem. The litter taken off the streets of Britain in one day must be measured in many thousands of tons- and this is LITTER, not the millions of tons of domestic and industrial refuse collected by dustmen and waste disposal agencies. This soiling and degeneration of our environment is yet another manifestation of the moral bankruptcy of our uncaring British society, the dreary legacy of ten years of unbridled Thatcherism, with its policy of curing inflation by putting half the nation on the dole! We have become a society without self respect- a society that has learnt to settle for 'second best'. For many the Thatcher years have seen a steady erosion of standard of living, legal rights, education, health care, jobs, homes and personal assets. In the North hundreds of long established businesses have gone to the wall, and our traditional industrial heritage and way of life has become a living fossil to catch pennies from tourists! The hills of the South Pennines are still 'alive'- with shuffling queues of the jobless waiting to sign on.
In view of this it should not be surprising that we have a soaring deliquency and crime rate, and a so called 'underclass' that takes a rats eye view of life and indulges in juvenile excesses reminiscent of the 18th century London Mob! The fact is, when it comes to litter, most folk don't care and the ones that do are labelled cranks. Making a mess is socially acceptable - smash a bottle, wreck a bus shelter, screw the system. I don't like the system- but I'm the one who has to sweep up the glass!!
The problem of litter, like that of AIDS seems to be cocooned in its own peculiar kind of mythology. Just as no-one is ever seen to go to the toilet in Hollywood movies - it is that same 'no-one' who is the source of the millions of tons of rubbish that befoul our streets. We have, like the person who loudly condemns the unnamed miscreant who farts in the committee meeting, something of a guilt complex when it comes to the emotive subject of litter. The truth is that, while we condemn the litter lout there are few of us who can honestly say that we have never, ever, dropped one bus ticket or dog end during the course of our law abiding lives. It is a matter of collective guilt - a hidden, almost unmentionable subject.
A new development in the war against litter is the Environment Protection Act - a law quite obviously never concocted by anyone who had to collect rubbish for a living! This 'crank's charter' gives added legal muscle to the professional complainer. Its main tenor- of penalising local authorities who fail to clear up a reported mess within specified time limits, is a re-inforcement to that widely-held public misconception that dirty streets are the fault of 'the council'. Thus the law penalises those who clean the streets while at the same time failing to act against those who make the mess! Theoretically I could fly tip rubbish in my street after dark, and then complain about it to the council who are legally bound to come and take it away!!
When are the public of this country going to wake up to the fact that the rubbish on our streets is OUR collective responsibility? People in other countries do not throw litter because they know they will have to pay someone else to pick it up. In France this collective responsibility, coupled with an aversion to take away junk food, ensures litter free streets. In Lord Street, Southport, the litter fouls the pavements despite double rows of litter bins on both sides of the road spaced fifteen feet apart! Surely this tells us something about British attitudes? We throw our rubbish on the street without thinking for one second what might become of it. That the pop bottle left in the shop doorway will probably be smashed and might even maim someone never seems to cross the tiny English brain - nor does the realisation that there is a direct connection between these anti social habits and the hefty tax bills that come through their letterboxes! Out of sight is out of mind!.The public of this country could quite literally save themselves millions of pounds in taxes every year by quite simply taking their litter home or using a bin.
Litter bins (you might be interested to know) are not receptacles to be sick into or burning braziers to keep hands warm on winter nights. They are in fact intended for LITTER. This should certainly come as a surprise for the local shopkeeper who tends to regard the litterbin outside his premises as his own personal repository for trade and domestic refuse. Tins of beans, building rubble, scrap iron, unsold newspapers and the contents of filing cabinets, clog up litter bins and prevent passers by from using the bins for their proper function. Where are ordinary people to throw their litter? On the street presumably!
Fouled litterbins are not the sweeper's only problem. Bottle banks and newspaper recycling collection points are another well intentioned environmental pain in the arse, mainly because the public insist in using them as a general fly tip. Bottles and newspapers come in bags and boxes that are left around the collection points. If the banks are full, people just dump their bottles and news papers all around- to be smashed by louts or to be carried around on the wind. Needless to say none of this extraneous rubbish is recycled- it goes to the tip! But the public don't care- all they want to do is get rid of their crap- it doesn't matter where or how!
Calderdale has been suffering from a spate of tyre dumping. Garages have to pay trade rates to dump them legally,and one way round this problem is to adopt the Arlo Guthrie method- ie load a wagon, drive out to the moors after dark and distribute them liberally across the countryside! Many other local businesses tend to adopt similar techniques.
Another pain is trendy packaging. a six piece pack of chewing gum contains 13 seperate pieces of paper, which usually finishes up on the street, along with the chewed gum! Convenience foods of the 'Big Mac' type create a street orderlys nightmare! One such place, a fried chicken joint which has recently opened in Elland illustrates the point. The ubiquitous fish and chip papers have now been replaced by the following environmentally friendly package:-