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Brands and government 'should recognise litter costs'

Keep Britain Tidy has published a set of good practice aimed at helping to prevent littering even as council cleansing budgets are cut.

The report, Litter – Making a Real Difference, contains ideas from government, councils, popular brands and community groups.

Chief executive Phil Barton said: “Cleaning up litter around the clock is no longer an option as council budgets continue to be slashed. We need new approaches in tackling the issue of litter and we need them soon.”

He said the new approaches described were based on trying to prevent litter being dropped in the first place.

Barton called on politicians to take the issue of litter more seriously as “the £1bn a year it costs to clean the streets of England is an unsustainable amount. “This is money that could pay for 38,644 social care workers, 4,400 libraries or 33,200 nurses.”

Among ideas highlighted in the report is work in Scotland, which showed the wider economic cost of litter and what people would be willing to pay to be rid of it.

There is also a study of marine litter and the links between discarded material on land and pollution of the sea.

Manchester Business School brand expert Stuart Roper argues that litter negatively affects attitudes towards the brand identified on the packaging concerned, and that “rather than seeing litter as uncontrollable externality over which they have no control, perhaps [brands] should see litter as an extension of their own controllable marketing mix”.

The report also has Helen Drury, from the British Council of Shopping Centres, describing the role retail complexes can play in being a good community neighbour.

Among local authorities, Ruth Mulvany from North West Leicestershire outlines its partnership with distribution firm Pall-Ex to reduce litter from long-distance haulage, and Braintree describes a range of measures including extended cleaning hours into the evenings and weekends, rapid responses to reports from residents and tackling identified ‘grot spots’.

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