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New national litter strategy will forge a more beautiful and resourceful England

10 April 2017

The Government has today launched its National Litter Strategy, which includes a concrete pledge to look into deposit return systems for drinks containers, measures to tackle roadside littering and greater analysis of packaging design.

With annual litter costs estimated at around £1 billion, it was essential that the Government sought to tackle this social, environmental and economic blight more effectively.

The strategy was led by Defra in partnership with DCLG and DfT, with input from an advisory committee of which Samantha Harding, CPRE’s litter programme director, was a member. Samantha today welcomes the Government's strategy as a strong vision that paves the way for a cleaner and more resourceful England.

The headline proposals include a Voluntary and Economic Measures Working Group to study the potential effectiveness of a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and other drinks containers, as well as measures to tackle other types of commonly littered packaging. CPRE hopes that the group's investigations will provide clear recommendations to the Government on which measures will deliver the type of positive, universal change in behaviour delivered by the plastic carrier bag charge.

In similarly significant moves, the strategy lays out plans for an independent assessment of roadside cleanliness on trunk roads where responsibility is shared by Highways England and local councils. The strategy makes it clear that if litter clearance doesn't happen properly after these assessments then the Government will look at transferring all responsibility to Highways England.

As part of efforts to tackle superfluous, poorly designed or single-use plastic packaging, the strategy pledges to investigate better packaging design via a task force set up by the Advisory Committee on Packaging. This will include looking at design aspects such as detachable caps on plastic beverage bottles.

Samantha Harding, litter programme director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says:

“With our annual litter clean-up bill touching £1 billion, the Government knew it had to take action. We are delighted that our collaboration with Defra and the other sectors represented on the advisory group has led to England's first national litter strategy.

“The strong vision of the strategy paves the way for us to enjoy a cleaner and more environment-conscious country. Deposit return systems have had a hugely positive impact on recycling rates abroad, so we hope that we can soon see similarly effective measures introduced here. We now also have plans to tackle the disgraceful levels of litter on our roadsides, and the poor and superfluous packaging – particularly the single-use plastics - that cause so much litter and waste.

“Encouraging recycling, better product design and clearer fines for littering can only be good things for resource efficiency and our environment.”

Other measures announced in the strategy include:

- a litter innovation fund to support small-scale community initiatives, strengthening the work of groups and individuals like those in the LitterAction community

- a consultation to determine new regulations for local councils to issue penalty charge notices to the keeper of a vehicle that litter has been thrown from

- a pilot project to investigate whether greater coordination between statutory bodies leads to cost savings and less litter, a project that will be delivered by CPRE

Samantha Harding comments further …

On roadside littering

“The levels of litter along our roadsides is a scourge and disgrace. It's a big step forward that new regulations on issuing fines will now be developed, making it easier for local councils to make sure littering isn't a consequence-free crime.

“I hope that the roadside assessment highlights that the crazy situation where local councils have to access high-speed roads to clear litter should be ended, with the transfer of that responsibility to Highways England. The current approach seems to be fraught with inefficiencies, leading to visually-depressing and environmentally damaging build-ups of litter along our roadsides.”

On the Voluntary and Economic Measures Working Group

“The announcement of the Voluntary and Economic Measures Working Group is particularly welcome. By allowing some fresh input into what's traditionally quite a tricky debate, the Government is ensuring that it can fully understand all the opportunities and risks of other universal measures, as it seeks to build on its success with the carrier bag charge and ban on microbeads.”

On community efforts to tackle litter

“Our LitterAction community continues to show the power of individual and group action against litter. I hope many other people will join us and take advantage of the litter innovation fund to support local initiatives that reduce waste and pollution in our much-loved countryside.”

On the pilot project to investigate coordination between statutory bodies

"Litter is expensive and complicated to clear. We want to find out whether having a county-wide action plan - where all public bodies in the county work together within an agreed framework - will deliver cost savings and less litter. If we can find a framework that works, this can be shared with all other counties to help them save money and have cleaner environments."

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