About Rural Litter

Britain's Litter Heroes

The Litter Hero Test

My Litter Picking

[+] Do something!

[+] Cotswold Litter Heroes
[+] Big Brand Litter

Litter Horrors

Why we need a Bottle Bill

Litter links



"If you don't like litter, do something about it!"

February 2010 New report published by Litter Heroes
What's Littering Britain? A survey of British litter

Litter in the Cotswolds

Be a hero - pick up some litter

This is a site for people who want to do something about litter. It's aim is to encourage as many people as possible to pick up litter and promote policies that will stop people littering. In a group or on your own, picking up litter is more than OK, it's actually an enjoyable, safe and satisfying thing to do.

Five things you can do about litter

  1. Pick it up! It won't hurt and nobody will laugh at you...more info

  2. Report heavily littered streets and roads to your Council - they have to pick it up...more info

  3. Write to your MP and ask him/her to urge the Government to introduce a 10p deposit on drinks cans and bottles......more info

  4. Write to Coca-Cola, Red Bull and McDonalds and ask them why their products are so heavily littered and what they are going to do about it ....more info

  5. Pick up some more litter - there's lots of it.

About the problem

Litter picking with Bill Bryson
Litter picking with Bill Bryson during the making of "Notes from a Dirty Island" Panorama BBC1
We collected this litter from less than half a mile of country lane in the Cotswolds.
Photo courtesy of Mayavision Limited
The UK is one of the most heavily littered countries in Europe. A couple of years ago my wife and I cycled from Calais to Istanbul. Of all the countries we travelled through only Serbia had more litter than than the UK.

Litter is a complex problem and there are no quick, easy solutions. It boils down to two key issues:
  1. A signicant proportion of the population still thinks it is OK to drop litter, particularly when they are in their cars.
  2. Hardly anyone picks it up.
Stopping people littering is very difficult. Twenty years of poster campaigns, TV adverts, and voluntary agreements, have had little effect on littering behaviour. More resources are going into litter wardens and on the spot fines, but it is difficult to catch people in the act of littering.

One initiative that is proven to lead to a significant reduction in littering is a Bottle Bill, a 10p refundable deposit on cans and plastic bottles. However, at present this is not even on the Government's radar.

In the mean time, we need to do a better job of picking up litter. This is not something that can be left to Local Authorities to solve. We all need to get into the habit of picking up litter.

It is worse in the countryside

1 mile of country lane - 147 items of litter:
  • 40 drinks cans
  • 30 plastic bottles
  • 20 bits of fast food litter
  • 20 Crisp packets
  • 20 chocolate bar wrappers
  • 10 Cigarette packets
  • 6 Carrier bags
  • 1 hub cap (there's always a hub cap)

  • Urban litter is just about under control. Drop a plastic drinks bottle on a city street and the Council will pick it up - it may take a few hours or a few days, but it will be picked up eventually. Drop the same bottle on a rural lane and the chances are it will never be picked up. Very few councils undertake regular litter picks in the countryside.

    In the city there is also the possibility that people might be caught and fined for dropping litter. In the countryside, the risk of being caught and fined is negilible.

    The good news is that litter picking in the countryside is a really pleasant thing to do.

    Five good reasons why you should go and pick up some litter

    1. It's enjoyable

    Honest, it really is. It is a great excuse to get out in the fresh air, get some exercise and do something useful.

    2. You'll make a big difference

    Twenty minutes litter picking can really transform an area. Today's litter is so in your face that removing it makes a big difference.

    Before litter pick - Buckholt Wood After litter pick Buckholt Wood



    3. You'll feel good

    Litter picking is surprisingly rewarding. It's very satisfying to look back on a clean, rubbish free country lane and know it is down to your efforts.

    4. You'll help prevent further littering

    Studies have shown that people are less likely to drop litter in areas which are litter free. By helping keeping somewhere clean, you'll be helping to discourage littering.

    Litter in the Cotswolds photo by Tim Barnes

    5. Your countryside needs you

    We live on a small overcrowded island. We do not have so much open space and countryside that we can afford to trash it with litter. Today's litter is very long lived, it does not rot or degrade in a hurry. A drinks can takes 100 years to degrade and plastic bottle more than a thousand. If we don't pick this stuff up it will still be there for our great great grandchildren.

    So go on, try picking up some litter, you'll be pleasantly suprised.
    If you are up for it, I suggest you read the Pick Some Litter page.

    And here are the five lamest excuses for not picking up litter

    1. "I don't see why I should pick up other people's litter"

    Edmund Burke was right: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". That's what's happening right now. By default, we are allowing the people who drop litter to win because we can't be bothered to do anything about it.

    2. "It's the council's job"

    This is a good attitude to take if you like paying Council Tax. In England and Wales Local Authorities already spend around 500m per year of our taxes on picking up litter. Getting to grips with rural litter would require a signficant increase in this figure. The truth of the matter is that Councils can't solve this problem on their own. This is something we can and should do for ourselves.

    3. "It's dirty"

    Not true. It's no more dirty than a little light weeding - just wear some gloves. How dirty can you get picking up a coke can?

    4. "It's demeaning"

    Yes, you may feel a bit self conscious at first. But the feeling lasts about 5 minutes. People won't think you are nuts and your friends will still speak to you.

    5. "I might get hurt picking up something nasty"

    There is really very little risk. Out in the countryside you very rarely come across anything dangerous or unpleasant. It is almost all plastic bottles, cans, crisp packets and chocolate wrappers.

    Tim Barnes litter picking

    About me

    My name's Tim Barnes and I pick up litter.

    It started when I happened to noticed how litter strewn one of my favourite walks in the Cotswolds had become. Next time I did the walk I took a carrier bag with me and picked some of it up. After that, it was if someone had given me litter spectacles - I started seeing it everywhere.

    I noticed it most when I was out cycling. Even in the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the roadside verges are covered in it. It is almost impossible to find a mile of litter free country lane.

    Now I go out with large refuse sacks and fill two or three at a time. I do it because I love the countryside and can't stand by as we turn it into a landfill site.

    Copyright © Tim Barnes 2008