The report says litter costs the UK £500m each year
More fines should be imposed and rewards offered to tackle litter louts, a report has suggested.
The study by the Policy Exchange think tank and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says litter in the UK has soared by 500% since the 1960s.
It recommends creating a national body for anti-litter initiatives as well as a deposit scheme for bottles and cans.
Author Bill Bryson, president of the CPRE, said fines were vital to tackle "exasperating and routine vandalism".
The report, titled Litterbugs, says litter costs the UK £500m each year.
In addition, it argues that firms in areas which have been badly affected by litter are losing business.
When questioned for the research, 37% of respondents said littering was sometimes or always acceptable.
One in five admitted dropping litter in the past year, with young males in urban areas most likely to do so.
But the report complains that the battle against litter is not being fought in a co-ordinated manner.
It says enforcement measures such as penalty fines need to be more consistent nationwide.
Author Bill Bryson is calling for action
However, it points out that incentive schemes have been successful in other countries - for instance, a programme in the US state of New York State which offered a small deposit back on drinks bottles and cans reduced roadside litter by 70%
It also suggests better design of public spaces, placing bins and ashtrays more thoughtfully and a national body to co-ordinate anti-litter campaigns and initiatives.
Ben Caldecott, Head of Policy Exchange's Environment and Energy Unit, said simple, cheap strategies like providing more bins could easily be put into place.
He added: "Over time, if we better educate people and stop the perception that litter is somehow 'someone else's problem', then we can get to the root causes of this blight on our towns and countryside."
Mr Bryson said fines were "an essential enforcement tool" to tackle litter.
"As this report also says, we need community buy-in to the fight against litter; we must build civic pride in clean and tidy environments, with communities competing to be spotless," he added.
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