Who is doing the littering ?

One of the big questions that bother those of us who are concerned about litter is why people drop it in the first place. ENCAMS (who run the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign) have, through their research, classified litter-droppers under 6 labels :

Beautifully Behaved – they tend to throw apple cores, fruit peelings and small pieces of paper onto the ground. Most of this group don’t see this action as being a problem.

Guilty – they know littering is wrong and feel guilty when doing it, but find carrying their rubbish around inconvenient so will be as discreet as possible when littering.

Blamer – they do not take responsibility for their littering; it is the council’s fault for inadequate bin provision and fast food joints and manufacturers for giving them too much packaging.

Justifier – their reason for littering is ‘everyone else is doing it’ and like the ‘Blamers’ the lack of bins are the causes for their moderate to heavy levels of littering.

Life’s Too Short – they are aware that dropping litter was ‘wrong’ but have more important things to worry about.

Am I Bothered ? – are completely oblivious of the consequences of dropping litter, and those few that are don’t care.

You would think that the majority of these types would be curable of their litter habit. Education, ensuring that litter bins are emptied regularly and that there are plenty of them around…..even fining should work.

I was talking recently to the clinical psychologist Oliver James. He pointed out to me that much littering is due to anger – anger that the bin hasn’t been emptied, anger that the council hasn’t cleared the litter away, anger that …………I could go on………

But Oliver also made the point that 3% of the population suffer from what he calls Antisocial Personality Disorder. Such people don’t care about the effect on others of what they do. If their behaviour leads to them being fined, they don’t pay the fine. These are probably exactly who the “Am I Bothered ?” group are.

The conclusion, then, is that however much we educate the young, enforce litter laws with fines or place extra litter bins around our community – there will always be the hard core (including the “Am I Bothered ?”) who will carry on littering regardless. That does not mean to say that it is a waste of time educating people as to the undesirability of litter – far from it. By doing that, we are at least having a go at minimising those who fall into the first five types.

But we should not be surprised if some people continue to litter. And we should ensure that we continue to keep up the pressure for financial incentives not to litter (e.g. bottle deposits) and for minimisation of packaging and the use of more environmentally-friendly (e.g. compostable) packaging materials. Such measures as these might either change these antisocial habits or, at least, ensure that litter leaves a less than lasting impression in our communities.

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