Core litter

Do you ever wonder if, sometimes, it is OK to litter ? Well, I certainly do and I feel that there are some occasions when it is perfectly acceptable to commit what might technically be considered a littering offence. For example, when you are driving along a country lane, what is wrong with throwing your apple core into a hedge that borders a field ? I wouldn’t say that there is anything wrong with that – the apple core will biodegrade over time and it might even be consumed by whatever wildlife might be around. And that’s all going to happen probably at some distance from the nearest house, let alone village or town. Perhaps there are other, similar scenarios that you can think of.

So when I read about a man in Saintfield, County Down, who threw his apple core out of his car into a hedge, I was curious. For a start, the culprit must be one of the unluckiest men around because in the car behind was none other than a Down District Council enforcement officer. As far as we can tell, this all happened in the countryside and not in Saintfield itself, a village of around 3,000 residents just 11 miles outside Belfast.

Mr Falls, the litterer in question, was given a £50 fine which he contested and, when a judge upheld the Council’s case, he ended up paying nearly £250 with an increased fine and costs on top.

I have to admit that, if the facts of the case are as they appear, I feel some sympathy for Mr Falls. He himself commented : “To me an apple is biodegradable. There are insects and various things in the hedgerows that can benefit from it. In the countryside, where there are hedges and probably more apples in the hedge than my apple core, I didn’t feel that it was anywhere close to litter”.

And that’s also a good point – there are plenty of wild crab apple trees that drop their unharvested fruit into the hedgerows.

But if Mr Falls had chucked his apple core into someone’s garden hedge in the village, I would have taken a different view. Such behaviour could easily become unpleasant if everyone started doing it and it attracted rats and other unsavoury creatures, apart from looking a mess.

So, I suspect that this is another case of an enforcement officer being a little over-zealous and I do hope that enforcement officers the nation over are encouraged to use their initiative and common sense and react proportionately to potential instances of littering.

I am afraid that all this episode has done is made one man very (and justifiably) angry and made the enforcement regime a bit of a laughing stock.

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