Is educating young people going to stop littering ?

The Secretary of State for Defra, the government department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – under which the issue of litter belongs – made an interesting statement in The House last week.

At Environment Questions in the House of Commons on 19th January, Caroline Spelman was asked some interesting points. First up was what steps she was taking to tackle littering and fly-tipping, to which she answered, among other things, that powers are being introduced to seize the vehicles of suspected fly-tippers and to increase the sentences that courts can hand out. Great stuff !

But then came a question about litter alongside busy roads and what more the Secretary of State could do to empower local councils to take effective action against people in vehicles who are responsible for such littering.

The Secretary of State began her answer to this question by pointing out, quite sensibly, that changing people’s behaviour was the key to solving this problem. But she then argued that we have to start in schools by educating children and taking them with us on litter picks “because it then dawns on them what a nuisance this [litter] is”.

In a sense what the Secretary of State says is correct but it skates over an unquestionable issue that has been thrown up by research that Keep Britain Tidy has carried out. This shows that it is actually the 18-24 age group who are the worst litterers. I have always deduced (although I don’t think that this has been proved beyond doubt by research) that this is because, while children in primary school love learning about litter and going on litter-picks, when young people advance into teenage years, many of them lose that learning as other priorities take over. I sense that this results in the 18-24 age range’s pride of place as the worst litterers.

So – please can we think more deeply before we voice the oft-repeated mantra that we need to educate schoolchildren if we are to solve the litter problem ? Yes, that is true to an extent. But what we urgently need to do is both to get the right message across to teenagers and those in their early 20s and we also need to get the message across to older adults who must, surely, contribute to much, if not the majority, of the litter that is flung out of vehicles.

One Response to “Is educating young people going to stop littering ?”

  1. david sivills Says:

    The key is to keep in mind that littering is not cool.people need to be reminded all the time. not just now and again ,Fines don’t work May be a poster campain in all shops fast food, and take aways and supermarkets,ect might work showing a street or road. Before litter was dropped and after with litter. then ask what area they would like to live these campains need to be ongoing

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