Like many people in Cheltenham I’ve been really disappointed by the sheer volume of litter that has been dumped in some of our green spaces over recent days. Last Saturday morning I went to Montpellier Gardens to thank the Ubico staff. They had been there since 5am picking up tonnes of rubbish – including bottles, discarded food packaging, and ‘hippy-crack’ nitrous oxide gas canisters.
The behaviour pollutes the environment, makes life a misery for local residents, and costs the taxpayer to clean up. There’s no excuse for it. If people can carry full bottles to a park, they can take empty ones away. It’s plain thoughtless to leave the job to public servants.
For the avoidance of doubt, dropping litter is illegal. Councils have the power to issue on-the-spot fines for up to £150 for littering as well as issue owners of vehicles where litter is thrown out. Penalty charge notices can be issued as an alternative to prosecution. Where the offender is prosecuted and ends up in Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court, the fine could rise to £2,500. Councils can also serve notices on other public bodies, businesses, landowners and occupiers that compel them to clear up litter, and put in measures to prevent the offence happening again.
These powers should be used.
We all have a part to play by reducing the amount of waste in the first place. As highlighted by the Government’s recent Litter Composition Report 75% of litter volume stems from drinks containers. To combat this scourge and increase recycling rates, we have already consulted on a Deposit Return Scheme for single-use drinks containers. Last year I arranged for a device used in Norway to be brought to Cheltenham High Street for local people to try out. The feedback was really positive.
The DRS will be legislated for through our landmark Environment Bill and is subject to further consultation.
In the meantime, let’s push back against the litter louts.