Mitigation vs. Solution

My last blog entry was about how I feel that everyone needs to take responsibility if we want our communities to be cleaner. This can be done through an organised litter pick in your local area, or taking it upon yourself to pick up litter when you see it. The organisation People Against Litter ask that members make a commitment to pick up one piece of litter a week. If you think that’s manageable, why not try three pieces a day, as advocated by Picking up the Pieces?

But this isn’t a solution to the problem of littering. It’s mitigation.

These are not the same thing, although they seem to be used interchangeably in the press. What we do at Rubbish Walks, and what groups across the country do on a weekly or monthly basis, is mitigation. We pick up rubbish and we make a place look better for a finite period of time (in Chippenham, new litter tends to appear within 2 hours). We are not any closer to stopping people from littering.

This is not to dismiss mitigation – after all, we and others are out there week in, week out regardless. We firmly believe that litter attracts more litter. The more uncared for and untidy an area looks, the more likely that other anti-social behaviours will crop up. So we do our bit to try to keep the streets in our community looking loved.

But solving the problem of litter? That is something I believe is beyond grassroots efforts. Yes, we can do our best to educate our friends and family about littering, or raise awareness among the people we meet while doing a litter pick. We can call out people we see littering. But actually preventing litter in the first place? That requires a concerted, organised effort to change the current throwaway culture and modify human behaviour.

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