High Sheriff of Gwent

Some time ago, I was asked to host a group of executives from a Silicon Valley-based company considering establishing a European headquarters in South Wales. They were attracted by the proposal put forward to meet the needs of their corporate expansion. A site had been suggested that could match the needs of this fast-growing company. As we travelled to the location, our visitors started to observe amongst themselves the litter at the side of the dual carriageway.

We are not talking about the odd piece of paper; there were piles of rubbish; bottles, fast-food containers, plastic bags, and old pieces of furniture. The situation worsened as we drew closer to the site, and shopping trolleys joined the mess. I was, quite frankly, mortified that our beautiful country was being compared to a rubbish dump. The visitors asked me to stop the vehicle and return to the hotel where they were staying. They had seen enough!

They pointed out that the Company would not want any of their customers to travel through this filthy environment to get to their new European headquarters. They also questioned whether they would wish to hire people with so little respect for their communities. Of course, those who drop litter are a minority. Still, sometimes I wonder whether they realise the potential economic and environmental damage their mindless behaviour has on our communities and countryside. The prospective inward investors would have brought valuable jobs and opportunities for people in the community and the associated supply chains, including no doubt some of thoughtless few tossing rubbish out of their car windows.

Dropping litter has other negative economic impacts on society. Some of the additional economic consequences of littering are:

  • Cost of Clean-up: Dropping litter creates a significant cost for local authorities and private businesses in terms of clean-up.
  • Governments and businesses must spend money to collect and dispose of litter properly, which can be a substantial financial burden. It is estimated to cost £30 per household in additional clean-up costs per annum.
  • Reduction in Property Values: Littering can have a negative impact on property values in the affected area. Property values can decrease due to the visual blight of litter, discouraging potential buyers and leading to lower rental prices.
  • Negative Impact on Tourism: Litter can also harm the tourism industry. Visitors are less likely to return to a visually unappealing location due to litter, which can reduce revenue for local businesses and hotels.
  • Health and Environmental Costs: Litter can also have significant environmental and health costs. Litter pollutes waterways, harms wildlife, and even leads to disease.

Ultimately, stopping littering requires a combination of personal responsibility, community action, and governmental support.

Several countries around the World such as Japan, Singapore, Canada and South Korea have successfully prevented littering through a combination of education, infrastructure, and strong enforcement measures. The success of these countries in preventing littering can be attributed to a combination of factors, including comprehensive waste management systems, strict anti-littering laws, heavy fines for offenders, public education campaigns, and community involvement. These countries have created a culture of cleanliness and responsibility, which has helped reduce littering and protect the environment.

Recently, I saw a call to increase fines to £1,000 for those who drop litter in the UK and if rubbish is thrown from a vehicle, the offender will have 6 points added to their drivers license. Although these measures will go some way to stifle bad behaviour, it is ultimately a total community intolerance to this curse on our landscapes that will eliminate the problem.

Littering is illegal. if you see it, report it and let's respect the beautiful world we live in.

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