I spent yesterday mulling over a comment that appeared earlier this week on the Rubbish Walks Facebook page. It was angry and expletive laden so I blocked it – Facebook
gives me that power and I am not afraid to use it. However, to
summarise, the person’s anger was at the fact that he “pays council tax,
why should [he] be expected to pick up litter?” I admit this is not an
uncommon response and is one I’ve come across a handful of times in the
past, although usually phrased in more civil terms. However, it’s a
mindset that I just can’t get my own head around.
the irony that it’s just this type of attitude that is shared with
litterers: “Someone else will do it.” “It’s not my responsibility.” “Why
should I bother?” [Also, as an aside, I’m not expecting anyone to pick
up litter who doesn’t want to – what would be the point of that? I just
want people to put their rubbish in the bin!].
Second, why is
the anger always directed at the Council and not where it belongs – with
the people doing the actual littering? These are the people turning the
country into a tip and causing that same Council tax to be spent on
unnecessary cleaning. There are complaints about the nation turning
into a “nanny state”, but at the same time people seem to want to be
picked up after like a child.
If money is such a concern, why
hasn’t it sunk in yet that the money spent cleaning up litter is a
waste? This is money that shouldn’t have to be spent and could be better
spent elsewhere. Let me repeat that: we should not have to spend money
on littering because this is a problem we create ourselves. If people
would use bins or bring their rubbish home to dispose of it properly, we
would be able to use the nearly £1 billion spent annually on cleaning
for other things. Other countries seem to manage it with varying levels
of success; why can’t we?
Council tax is used to pay for a
myriad of things such as schools, roads, street lighting, home rubbish
collection, police and fire services, and social services. And yet it
seems that we want it to do more and more, without actually thinking
about how far it can realistically stretch. Have we gotten so used to
litter being along our High Streets and motorways, on our coast and
countryside, that we just assume that it’s a normal part of modern life?
And no, I do not work for the Council. In fact, I do think there is
more they could do to combat litter, such as an improved
“binfrastructure”: more bins, bigger bins, better maintained and more
frequently emptied bins. And enforcement of on-the-spot littering
fines is something I would dearly love to see, but it’s an issue I am
not going to hold my breath over.
Returning to the original
comment that kicked off this musing, ultimately I don’t think ANYONE
should be expected to pick up litter … because it shouldn’t exist in
the first place. Roads will always need maintained. Children will always
need educated. Social services will always be needed to help the less
fortunate. But litter? This is something that is within our own control