Government announces bold new plan to tackle litter

Early this morning the British government announced that they were teaming up with leading fast-food companies, the beverage industry, cigarette corporations, gum manufacturers, and producers of on-the-go food to put an end to litter in the UK. 

“It is ridiculous that we spend nearly a billion pounds each year cleaning up after citizens like they were toddlers,” fumed one senior official who declined to be named. “Everyone moans about the nanny state, but then they go and act like spoiled children and leave their rubbish everywhere. It has to stop.” 

With everyone working together to promote cleanliness and make eliminating litter a priority, the government vowed that there would be zero litter by 2030: “Too long have we relied on the goodwill of civic-minded residents to clean up after those who refuse to do their bit. From today we will be focusing on those who cause the problem: the litterers and fly-tippers.” 

The key points of the plan include:

  • Enforcement of Fines: Littering fines of £150 will be enforced with mobile CCTV cameras and increased police patrols at known hot spots, and computer vision technology will be rolled out at intersections to catch littering from vehicles. Fines are set to increase year on year, and the money paid towards fines will be ringfenced to benefit the anti-litter programme.

  • Deposit Return Scheme (DRS): A 20p per item refund will be given for every aluminium can, plastic bottle, and glass bottle that is returned to stores or special reverse vending machines. It is expected this will halve the amount of visible litter while allowing more packaging to be recycled than at present.

  • Dog DNA: Following up on the previous requirement that all cats and dogs be microchipped, all dogs will also have to have their DNA on file to combat dog fouling and the common practice of bagging dog poo without binning it. Owners who do not clean up after their pet will be charged a littering fine and for the cost of the DNA test.

  • Education: All schools in the UK will become members of the Eco-Schools programme to ensure that students receive a solid environmental education and understand the importance of keeping their communities clean.

  • Greater Provision of Bins: A fund will be established to allow for communities to purchase and maintain bins. The use of micro bins and mini bins for cigarette and gum litter will be encouraged.

  • Greater Awareness of Proper Behaviour: A widespread campaign will be run for the next decade to make the point that littering is not socially acceptable in the UK nor will it be tolerated. All companies that produce food and beverages commonly consumed on the go must develop public service announcements that instruct their customers how to dispose of rubbish correctly. Smoking paraphernalia will likewise have to be labelled with reminders that customers should bin their butts and all packaging.

These interventions will be monitored and adjusted as necessary over the next ten years to increase their efficiency.

The government finished their briefing by saying, “If Britain wants itself to be seen as a modern country, one that is leading the way, it cannot continue to allow a significant minority of its residents to drag it into the gutter. We must clean up our act, and we will ensure that this happens starting today.” 

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This is, of course, an April Fools’ Day publication. But the truly foolish thing? It doesn’t have to be. 

Stopping litter at the source—those who carelessly toss their rubbish in the first place—should be the aim of any anti-litter organisation or programme. Expanding the anti-litter choir through litter picks is great, but it must be done in conjunction with widespread behaviour change in order to be effective. 

After all, doesn’t the world have larger problems we could be focusing on instead? Let’s do everything we can to stop the drop and keep our communities clean and safe.

A note about the above illustrations:

These are all quick and dirty mock-ups I did over the past week while using (mostly) real ads to demonstrate how a national campaign could potentially work.

There are ads for actual brands that show them getting onboard by promoting an anti-litter message. There are generic “What would you do with £150?” posters that remind people about the cost of littering in a way that is hopefully relevant to them. There are examples of point-of-sale and ready meal signs. All of them use the “Britain cleans up. Do you?” tagline, which is my attempt to unify everything under one clear message to inspire cultural change. This is based on the strategy I outline in the Moonshot post and subsequent Open Letter action plan.

I am not a graphic designer or copywriter. Imagine what could be done with just a little more time, expertise, and creativity—the UK could be blanketed with a unified campaign that makes it clear that we are a nation that is looking after our communities, cleaning things up, and refusing to tolerate litter any longer.

How do we make this a reality rather than a one-off April Fools’ Day joke? If you have any ideas, please let me know!

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