CLG Committee report: Cigarette taxes should fund litter clean up

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Aschenbecher (Foto: ©Thorben-Wengert /http://www.pixelio.de)

London, UK — The Chancellor of the Exchequer should hand over a portion of any increase in tobacco levies to help local councils pay for the cost of clearing cigarette-related litter, says the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee in a report on litter and fly-tipping.

The Committee found litter levels in England have barely improved over the last 12 years, hitting the tax-payer with an annual bill of as much as £850 million in clean-up costs. Chewing gum and cigarettes were found to be the most littered items, while fast-food litter increased by 20 per cent in the last year. The Committee is clear that change is needed and that individuals, Government, and tobacco, chewing gum, and fast food industries must now act to tackle the nation’s litter problem.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, commented: „Litter is a blight on many of our communities and the public are rightly disgusted when they see discarded fast-food packaging, cigarettes, and chewing gum strewn across our streets. Litter levels have remained largely static over the last 12 years, with councils spending hundreds of millions of pounds of tax-payers’ money fighting a losing battle. Government and industry need to get together to tackle the endemic litter problem. Handing a portion of tobacco levies to local councils to help pay for the cost of clearing cigarette litter would show Government is serious about getting tough on litter.“

Fly-tipping levels increasing

The Committee found that levels of fly-tipping were increasing, up by 20 per cent in the last year, with 852,000 reported incidents but only 2,000 convictions in the courts. The Committee recommends Government introduce a Fixed Penalty Notice for fly-tipping for household items — the bulk of the incidents — and calls on industry to introduce a scheme to take away unwanted household appliances and furniture when replacements are delivered. The Committee also recommends councils do more to forge partnerships with charities who are willing to collect such items free of charge.

Whether it’s unwanted sofas, mattresses, building rubble or other waste, much fly-tipped material is dumped on roads. The Committee found a lack of co-ordination on cleaning roads between councils and the Highways Agency and therefore recommends the Highways Agency, and Transport for London in London, take on responsibilities for clearing fly-tipping and litter from all purpose trunk roads.

England is a litter-ridden country

Commenting on the report, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the CLG Committee, argued: „It’s hard to deny England is a litter-ridden country compared to most of Europe, North America and Japan. While Government and industry must play their part, in the end it is individuals who litter and fly-tip their unwanted goods, and it is their behaviour which needs to change. The Government should consider increasing the Fixed Penalty Notice for littering so that litter louts are hit in the pocket if they are caught dropping rubbish. Litter campaigns also have a role and we urge people to get involved in community clean-up days in their area next weekend on 21 March.“

National litter strategy recommended

The Committee found the current division of responsibility between Defra and the Department for Communities and Local Government is often unhelpful, with little leadership or co-ordination of the excellent work of authorities and volunteers. The Committee recommends the Government launch a national litter strategy for England, with a clear framework for action, underpinned with a co-ordinating role for local councils within their respective areas. The Government’s recently announced community clean-up day should become an annual event, say the Committee.

Source: Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee