The pandemic has had many unintended consequences in areas not related to health – and one of the most frustrating has been an increase in littering.
There are all sorts of reasons: people exercising more outside because they are prevented from socialising indoors; more food and drink being bought take-away; overflowing litter bins – and perhaps an increase in the number of ‘pandemic puppies’ (indeed like our own) although the majority of dog walkers are pretty good at doing the right thing.
But whatever the reasons, it is still both anti-social and bad for the environment. Anti-social because it spoils what should be an otherwise pleasant opportunity to get out and about in a beautiful part of the world. And bad for the environment because most of the litter is not biodegradable.
It also encourages more of those stealthy urban foxes that are starting to plague towns like Farnham in the way they have done our big cities for many years.
So what is the answer? Councils have the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £150 for littering and although it is devilishly difficult to catch people in flagrante I would like to see this power used more. Could not some of those roadside cameras catch people who disagreeably throw out litter o nto the verges of the A3 or A31? Councils should also need to make a much bigger effort to empty litter bins that fill up, especially at weekends in parks or other public areas.
There are some things national government can do, too: ministers did a consultation on a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks cups which account for around three-quarters of litter nationally. This is something that happens successfully in Germany – we should do the same. I would also like the government to publish an independent league table of councils so we can see how well ours does in comparison to others. There needs to be a national effort – it has even been suggested we should have a minister for litter, something I would support if it was not done as a gimmick.
We can also play our part locally – hence my litter pick in Farnham, Milford and Haslemere last Saturday. We had huge numbers of volunteers and collected bags and bags of the stuff. The weather held out – just. Thank you to everyone who joined me, including a number of council candidates – it was a terrific effort. We may not have got rid of all of it but Lion Green, Langhams Recreation Ground and the verges near the Esso garage in Milford are vastly improved. To be continued!