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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 13:22 GMT
Fast food and gum litter 'rise'

England's streets are increasingly plagued with fast food litter and chewing gum, a Defra survey has shown.

But pet owners seem to be behaving more responsibly, with a 27% decrease in dog mess recorded since last year.

In 10,000 sites surveyed there had been a 12% rise in litter from takeaway food outlets while nearly 95% of town centre streets were dotted with chewing gum.

Keep Britain Tidy group ENCAMs, which conducted the survey, urged councils to clean at night when littering is worst.

The organisation has said it found some councils were also using the wrong tools to clean up or simply neglecting "showcase" areas like main roads or streets around train stations.

Alan Woods, chief executive of ENCAMs, said: "While the blame for this shame must lie with people who are too lazy to use a bin, some councils are doing us no favours at all by concentrating on the wrong places.

"The sad fact is they don't plan properly, listen to their resident's concerns, or equip their street cleaners with the tools for the job."

Site grading

It is the second Local Environmental Quality Survey of England (LEQSE) the charity has produced for the environment agency and allows councils to be judged for the first time on whether street litter is improving.

Sites were graded on a scale of good, satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or poor, with 40% of sites scoring good or satisfactory, 54% unsatisfactory, and 6% poor.

Put bluntly local authorities and others are not meeting their obligations
ENCAMs said the survey "indicates that with no more resources, and only a little more care and attention, a high proportion of these would move into the satisfactory bracket".

"If cleansing was given slightly more management attention in most local authorities this situation could be rectified quite easily."

ENCAMs said it had made the same comments after its inaugural survey last year.


"It is clear again this year, that over two thirds of the population that live in higher density or social housing are living in an environment which is not meeting the statutory requirement.

"Put bluntly local authorities and others are not meeting their obligations.

"These environments have either changed little from last year or are in slight decline."

Rubbish was found at 97% of sites
Chewing gum was stuck to 66% of pavements
London was the best region for sorting out weeds
The North East was number one for cleaning up dirt
The South West was the only area which shifted pavement stains such as grease, oil, gum and sick, properly
All regions scored maximum marks for cleaning up fly tipping and fly-posting
32% of fly tipping came from homes, 22% from shops and offices, 17% from builders and 14% from gardeners
The local environmental quality minister Alun Michael, Home Office minister Hazel Blears, and Yvette Cooper of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are due to officially launch the survey later on Monday.

They are expected to spell out the key local environmental and anti-social behaviour issues in communities, and highlight the action the government wants to see tackled.

Mr Michael is expected to welcome the progress made, and urge local authorities to act to bring more areas up to the satisfactory standard.

"We cannot create sustainable communities without ensuring that the standard of our public spaces is up to scratch", he said.

Hazel Blears will speak about new measures in The Anti-Social Behaviour Act to tackle environmental crime.

How bad is litter on Britain's streets? What should be done about it? Send us your view

Also if you have taken any pictures of litter on the street please email them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Mark from London:
Is Britain a nation of litter-bugs

I can't remember when I last saw a road sweeper in our village, or the machine that sucks out the drains. The drains are full of leaves. Where is all the council tax going? Clearly these jobs are the function of the council. Personally I sweep outside my own house because I take a pride in the area in which I live, but should I have to?
David Fenn, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

I think that there is no doubt that England has become the dirtiest country in Europe. London always had the well-deserved reputation of being a dirty city but the problem has now spread out over the whole country! When I moved to Maidenhead 10 years ago, it was a nice clean town but now even the river area is full of bottles and plastic bags. It is really sad!
George Justo, Maidenhead

Concentrating on the cleaning is treating the symptom not the cause. We should have pride in our country and the areas that we live in (you don't see litter in Germany). I hate to say it but it boils down to parenting, again. I have stopped pointing out to other parents when their children have dropped litter (whilst in their presence) as the blank looks just frustrate me and I feel embarrassed. It should be them who feel embarrassed.
Stephen Crockett, UK

I couldn't agree more that Britain's streets need to be kept in better shape by local councils. However, councils will no doubt make the case that extra cleaning can only be paid for by more hikes in council tax. Given the choice, I'd rather walk on chewing gum lined streets then face an even greater tax bill next year. It's sad to say, but there are more important things for councils to worry about than rubbish and gum.
Luke Kirkwall, East London

Take some of the many traffic wardens away from harassing the motorist and put them on litter duty
Lesley Ingleby, Bideford, Devon
I live in a small market town in North Devon that relies heavily on tourism but the state of the streets is enough to discourage the most undiscerning visitor. The council have spent large amounts of money on improvements to the quay and laying new pavements but in no time at all they were covered in chewing gum and grease from the fast food outlets. The streets are constantly full of litter despite the numerous bins provided. Perhaps the council should take some of the many traffic wardens away from harassing the motorist and put them on litter duty. A few hefty fines may persuade people to dispose of their litter appropriately.
Lesley Ingleby, Bideford, Devon

Litter (like vandalism) is the action of a lazy misguided few and yet it affects so many and leaves a sullied and spoiled environment. It should no longer be tolerated. "Pick it up, take it home or be punished". Not by fines but community service - cleaning up their own mess. The funding to 'police' this should come from the irresponsible commercial sector who package their products badly in the first place in the form of "Fast Food Fines"
Kevin beveridge, London, UK

I am a director of a cleaning company in the north of England, My company has contacted various councils to offer our services on the Graffiti and Chewing Gum problem that is blighting our Towns and Cities, we might as well have not bothered. Out of numerous councils we have approached only Kirklees MDC and Bradford MDC have shown the slightest interest.
Brendan A Redman, Leeds England

Cigarette ends are the biggest single cause of litter
John Bridgman, London
Cigarette ends are the biggest single cause of litter. All smokers who smoke in public seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to drop their cigarette ends on the ground, and I suspect that they are the same people who habitually drop fast food and other litter, because dropping litter is second nature to them. Their behaviour is unacceptable. I suggest the Government puts a litter tax on all personal imports of cheaper cigarettes from Europe, equivalent to the tax levied on sales in this country, and gives the money to local authorities to help pay for clearing up the mess.
John Bridgman, London

If, like me, you are fed up with failure of your local Authority to keep your streets clean, make your feelings known to the Authority in question. Also, find the email addresses of your local Councillors and send them emails of complaint. If you are unhappy with the response you get or, like me, find you get no response at all, complain to the Local Government Ombudsman and send them copies of your correspondence. Councillors and Authorities have specific obligations they are required to meet. If they fail to do so, complain! Or live surrounded by rubbish - the choice is yours.
Andy Robson, Birmingham UK

Tax chewing gum and tax food packaging - spend the money on advertising to change attitudes and increase fines for littering. Take Australia as an example - "Don't be a tosser" posters are stuck on litter bins, stubbing fag ends out on the pavement is also seen as socially unacceptable (and illegal!) and the streets are largely clean as a result.
Adrian, London

Foul habits like this start in childhood and should not be tolerated
KM Vernon, London
Make it part of the school curriculum - I remember in primary school how it was drummed into us the terrible offence of "being a litter-bug" Each class once a term was sent out into the school area and surrounding streets to pick up litter. I often tell kids in my area off for littering "Do you do that at home?" I ask. So far I've only been met with looks of astonishment. Foul habits like this start in childhood and should not be tolerated.
KM Vernon, London

Is it an age thing? I'm not sure, in Bedford you see all ages of people littering, spitting out gum and throwing their cigarette ends on the floor. All of these acts are disgusting, but not only that, they're illegal. The perpetrators should be heavily fined, made to clean up their mess and be educated into knowing how disgusting littering is.
Rob , Bedford, England

I have just moved back to England with my Danish wife and am ashamed of the rubbish, cigarette butts, chewing gum, vomit and urine that plagues our streets. Why do Britons place so little value on a clean environment? It shows a real lack of respect and thought for each other.
James, London, UK

The majority of rubbish seems to me to be from takeaway establishments. Legislation should be introduced to force fast food places to have their logo on their food packaging, therefore when the litter was collected the named outlet could be billed directly per item of rubbish.
Sam Gillard, Loughborough, uk

I would support a complete ban on chewing gum
David, Birmingham
The pavements of central Birmingham are plastered with gum. I would support a complete ban on chewing gum, rather than a tax. It is a disgusting habit made more unbearable by the vacant expressions on people mindlessly chewing with their mouths open. Yuck! Chewing gum is already banned in Singapore, so we should follow their lead.
David, Birmingham

As a road sweeper in London I've seen the lack of enforcement needed to tackle the problems of litter and graffiti in my city. The money taken from the tax payer is in the wrong hands, let the job be done by the people who now how to make London clean again... the people who clean the streets!
a, London

Public litter in Britain is a national disgrace. Compared to most European countries I have visited, we are filthy. I have seen Venice (surely one of the worlds busiest tourist spots) early morning as the street sweepers passed. They struggled to fill one dustpan in 100m of pavement. And have just returned from the Costa del Sol. The centre of Malaga and other cities in the region are spotless. Our problem is due to a combination of people behaving like pigs and poor council clean-up.
Peter Easton, Bristol, UK

The state of our country makes we want to weep. The situation is definitely worsening and it's not just our towns and cities - the countryside is full of rubbish, plastic bags, discarded containers - you name it. In Lincoln, where I live, the swans and ducks on the Brayford waterfront nest among used drink cans and fast food wrappings. Why do we treat our environment with such contempt?
Sue Rosen, Lincoln, UK

It can take ages to find a litter bin
Kerry, Copenhagen, Denmark
I am a Brit living in Denmark. Here littering is not really a problem. This might be partly due to the number of litter bins that are around. I find sometimes when I am in Britain that it can take ages to find a litter bin. I do not condone littering at all, but perhaps more bins should be available...
Kerry, Copenhagen, Denmark

Walk out of East Croydon station in either direction, but especially towards the town centre and the shopping mall, and the pavements are literally covered with chewing gum. When you first look at the pavement is not clear what is it that is smothering it until closer inspection. It is disgusting.
Janice Willmott, Croydon, Surrey

You see so may kids these days just chucking stuff onto the pavement, I'm pretty sure a lot of them get it from their parents, who do exactly the same. I think it goes to show how little respect people have for the environment that they live in these days. We really need to start making an effort to keep our planet clean, whether it's litter on the streets or pollution in the sea and air, people need to start caring again, and stop being so ignorant & lazy.
Simon rerrie, Birmingham, UK

A 500 fine for anyone caught or seen by an official (council or Police) dropping any litter intentionally. In addition I would encourage schemes such as the "adopt a highway" scheme in Florida. This allows business' and organisations to provide extra funding for litter clearance along "adopted" roads and streets. The adopting business or organisation gets free advertising on signs in the area concerned as well as a local tax reduction. Not only is this good for the environment but gives the sponsors much desired "environment friendly" reputations.
Ed , Cheshire UK

Give the police or council wardens greater powers to fine perpetrators
Helen Beeby, Manchester
Hurrah - finally litter is on the public agenda! I hate it, and it must make the UK appear like a dump to tourists. I also agree that dirty, litter-strewn streets are the thin end of the wedge when it comes to spiralling graffiti, vandalism and anti-social behaviour. Give the police or council wardens greater powers to fine perpetrators, get the message across in schools and get councils to clean streets at night like they do in Barcelona. Please don't let this be a flash in the pan PR exercise.
Helen Beeby, Manchester

I think a good idea would be for the government to ask the long time unemployed that claim benefits to serve the community for an hour a week in order to claim their benefits. The working people serve their community by paying, let those who claim from their country put something back in.

What about cigarette ends? People toss them on the ground even when lit. Not only do they contribute to litter but also they are a fire hazard.
John Smith, UK

I lived in Edinburgh in 1999 and was appalled at that time to see how many circles of chewing gum there were per square metre of pavement in the centre of the city. The pattern on the pavements was like a Dalmatian dog. What I have never understood is the fact that this is not a feature of pavements in the USA or most other European cities.
David Pickett, Port Huron, Michigan, USA

People should take more pride in our towns and cities. It really doesn't take much to use a rubbish bin now does it?
Neil, Bournemouth UK

Many times I have seen litter piled up against an overflowing bin
Gill, Wilmslow, Cheshire

Many times I have seen litter piled up against an overflowing bin. A lot of people try to keep streets clean, but bins are either not provided or not emptied on a regular basis. Make the fast food places pay a clean up tax. Put a tax on chewing gum.
Gill, Wilmslow, Cheshire

It is really bad. Aberdeen Beach Promenade is supposed to be a dog free area, but the tiny paper posters the council has put on one or two of the lamp-posts in the area just get ignored by selfish dog owners.
Mike, Aberdeen UK

There are certain areas where huge amounts of litter are used by school children at lunch time. Fish and chip shops near to Comprehensive schools suffer in particular. Perhaps it is time to use video technology to name and shame, or even perhaps prosecute offenders, or their parents.
Alan Coxon, Gateshead

The vast majority of litter dropped on the streets in my neighbourhood is confectionery/crisp wrappers and soft drink bottles. The source is obviously kids going to and from school. Could anything be done to get these youngsters to clear their mess up?
Paul, Nottingham UK

How about a tax on chewing gum to help pay for clearing it up?
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

How about a tax on chewing gum to help pay for clearing it up? Or legislation to force manufacturers to produce gum that is water soluble so that it will eventually disappear (this would be long after the taste has gone, so people won't notice the difference). As for fast food there should be a tax on wrappers in the same way as the tax on carrier bags in Ireland works. This tax can go directly to the local councils to clear up the mess. Perhaps fast food outlets could get a discount if they employ their own litter pickers?
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

I walk to uni every day on the same road. I have to skip over the same pieces of dog mess day in and day out, making sure to remain vigilant for new spots. It's disgusting and the people who are too bone idle to pick up after themselves and their animals should be shot!
Ben, Edinburgh

The streets in the centre of Bournemouth are so covered in chewing gum it is now impossible to avoid it when walking. The simple answer is to tax the stuff - if you want to pollute the streets, you can pay to clean them up.
Kevin Patrick, Bournemouth, England

Why blame the councils for litter problems? If people disposed of litter and their dog's mess responsibly there would be no need for the council to clean up after them.
Jane Davies, Rhondda, South Wales

People just litter because there is no idea of public cleanliness
Matt, Warwickshire

People just litter because there is no idea of public cleanliness. There's an assumption that if you throw it away it isn't your problem - someone else will deal with it. People are just lazy, and councils are lazy in putting up litter bins at regular intervals. Perhaps now that IRA bombing has stopped we can have litter bins again.
Matt, Warwickshire

Personally I'd outlaw gum, it's probably up there with smoking as a truly disgusting habit.
James, Newbury, UK

Why can't people wrap up their chewing gum (maybe even in the chewing gum wrapper) and put it in their pocket till they find a bin? Our pavements here in West London have dense, Dalmatian effect black dots where the gum has been flattened and has attracted dirt. It really is disgusting how much of it there is. From a regular chewer.
Barbara Karayi, London, UK

There is only one thing to say! It's disgusting!
Rhiannon, Carmarthen

I think it's disgraceful, the local councils are not doing enough to keep the streets clean. It's high time they woke up and realised that something needs to be done. In the recent past I have seen litter and rubbish scattered on the roads like never before.
Waqar, Leicester

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

The BBC's Robert Hall
"The survey of 10,000 sites found streets plagued with fast food litter and chewing gum"

Chewing over gum problem
15 Nov 03  |  Staffordshire
Company fears gum crackdown
06 Apr 03  |  Devon

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