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I know I’m always moaning about the litter fouling our streets but a recent Keep Britain Tidy study shows that I’m justified in my whinging. It reveals that the direct cost of keeping our streets clean is almost £1billion a year – and that a significant part of this is attributable to removing litter – but it doesn’t take into account the indirect costs of litter… The Group reviewed everything from crime to punctures and wildfires and for each potential impact, evidence from around the world was used to extrapolate the potential cost to society.
For example, the contribution of litter to crime in England is estimated to cost up to £328million a year - based on evidence associated with litter as a causal factor in crime. Areas that are more littered are more likely to correlate with higher crime levels.
The material value of litter being lost to the economy was also investigated and if we recycled 50% of items littered in England it would have an economic value of at least £14.8million!
"It’s important that we understand how litter and poor local environmental quality can adversely impact on society and our economy,” says Keep Britain Tidy’s Phil Barton. “What this report shows is that the actual price we pay to clean up the rubbish is just the tip of the iceberg. More work is needed to fully understand the hidden cost of litter and there are gaps in our understanding, but what is clear is that the bill for litter in England is significantly more than the direct costs of keeping our streets clean.”
I believe what he’s saying is that rather than keep cutting street cleaning budgets, our councils should invest more in cleaning services, as this will not only reduce litter and the costs of cleaning it up but it will also reduce graffiti and other more serious crime that may also need cleaning up and which is costly to investigate. Further, it will improve recycling and increase recycling income - while cleaner, more inviting, crime-free streets will encourage tourists to visit and spend money.
I’ve often wondered why bins are emptied almost daily in some countries and it’s all finally starting to make sense…
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5th February 2015