Despite decades of anti-littering campaigning in the UK this age-old issue stubbornly prevails. A timely Select Committee report in March highlighted that there has been near to no improvement in 12 years. There has been a 20% increase in fast food littering in the last year, with chewing gum and cigarettes also remaining stubborn and expensive problems. The impact to the public pocket comes in at £850 million annually.

Hubbub recently brought together 20 organisations representing key businesses and NGO’s to discuss steps that could be made to accelerate the transition to a litter-free UK. We were all agreed around 3 main points:

1) The void of Government leadership

There was violent agreement that the issue of littering has slipped significantly off the national agenda, with Government having dropped it almost completely. With the plug pulled on funding NGO’s have struggled to maintain a loud enough voice in this space and have faced the challenge of running campaigns on threadbare budgets. This must change. The new Government has a fresh opportunity to show a strong lead and develop a co-herent cross-departmental strategy. Funding must be re-instated, backing campaigns that can be supported by all. 

2) The need for closer collaboration

Everyone present had a clear shared objective; to see litter eradicated in the UK. More co-ordinated cross-sector working is vital to ensure there is a national strategy to do this, including collaboration with Local Authorities and the public. It's a no brainer that a clearly communicated message, backed by many voices, is a powerful one. Multiple insights and perspectives add strength and clout to the narrative. This does not come without its challenges. First what does this looks like; do we look for consensus around a national litter manifesto? Do we look to create a new UK-wide litter forum? To achieve the impact that greater togetherness can bring will also come at a sacrifice of relinquishing territory, sharing space, and embracing differences.

3) Behaviour change is the key

There is a need to shift national culture as well as a need to take local action. Increased activity is needed in the form of innovative behaviour change schemes, including in schools, that have a measureable impact. One size doesn’t fit all, so scalable replicable projects must be tailored to specific areas and audiences. With this shared learning is essential. By sharing expertise, research insights and findings, we can build on what is known and identify new opportunities.

With increased collaboration, greater activity and sharing, and a concerted call to Government action, there is hope that littering can be raised back up the agenda and more action can be taken on creating cleaner, greener, more prosperous neighbourhoods.