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Keep Britain Tidy studies indirect costs of litter

Up to £14.8m in recyclable materials could be lost every year because of fly-tipping, Keep Britain Tidy has said in a report on the indirect costs of litter.

The anti-litter campaigning organisation has analysed the possible expenditure associated with illegal waste disposal beyond the £1bn a year England spends on keeping streets, park and other public spaces clean.

A report produced in partnership with consultancy Eunomia said that approximately 550,253 tonnes of street sweeping and litter were collected in England in 2010-11, some 62% of which consisted of plastics, glass and paper.

This gave an estimate of 339,176 tonnes of litter that could have been recycled.

“Currently we estimate that the value of litter is between £12.8m and £14.8m per year depending on the recycling rates in England,” the report said.

“As recycling rates get higher and resource become scarce, in line with Government commitments, this is likely to increase.”

The study also indicated extinguishing fires at fly-tipped waste piles could have cost England up to £70.6m per year.

It estimated that in 2011-12 some 33,400 of such fires were attended by the fire services, with an average cost of £2,113 per turnout.

“These fires will also release greenhouse gases, toxic compounds and airborne particulates into the atmosphere,” said the report. “It is not possible to quantify this however as there is not data available on the tonnage or composition of refuse involved.”

The study concluded that the costs that could be attributed to a littered environment could be as high as £500m per year in England.

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