"Is Sheffield really serious about the problem of littering"?

‘The cleanliness of the city’s roads has been acknowledged by central government, following an independent assessment of roadside litter levels in areas maintained by local authorities and Highways England,’ reads a recent statement by Sheffield Council.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 2:47 pm
Litter in Sheffield

It continues: ‘The assessment was carried out by UK-based environmental charity, Keep Britain Tidy, on behalf of DEFRA, whose analysis congratulated Sheffield Council for maintaining a consistently high standard of roadside cleanliness.’

Are they serious?

This statement – recently posted by Sheffield Council on its newsroom website – in addition to being delusional and untrue, wouldn’t have been out of place if issued by the Politburo in the former Soviet Union.

Litter in Firth Park this week

Anyone who lives in or near Sheffield knows that the city suffers from a severe litter problem. It's also true to say that Sheffield Council has no discernible litter strategy.

If it wasn't for the tireless and community-spirited work of groups like Sheffield Litter Pickers and other local volunteers, the city would more than likely resemble downtown Dhaka.

The city is covered in litter - as indeed is the whole country. Consider the words of Sheffield MP, Clive Betts, who recently stated: “I'm ashamed, angry and embarrassed - our country is a filthy, littered, disgrace."

This aforementioned 'assessment' that Sheffield Council refer to was carried out by Keep Britain Tidy.

Litter picking in Heeley

Keep Britain Tidy is, as an organisation, well past its expiry date.

The organisation has been the recipient of over £100m of taxpayers money from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs), and is known to many people as 'DEFRA's litter lackeys.’

As Jeremy Paxman, Clean Up Britain's Patron, said: "Keep Britain Tidy are even more useless than DEFRA" - and that's saying something!

So, what we have here is one useless organisation telling another useless organisation that Sheffield Council are doing a good job on the litter front.

Given the vast volume of litter in and around Sheffield which is collected by volunteer litter pickers every week, you must forgive local people if they find this so-called 'independent assessment' little more than deceitful state-sponsored propaganda.

And just so people know, Sheffield Litter Pickers – a volunteer collective, made up of groups and individuals from all over Sheffield committed to keeping the local environment clean – go out a few times every week, and collect between 40-60 bags of litter from the city’s streets in only a few hours.

If anyone is keeping the city clean - and deserves an accolade - it could be argued it's them.

It is my opinion that Sheffield Council need, in the first instance, to do three things to address the issue of local littering:

Firstly, I would suggest implementing a highly professional anti-litter behavioural change campaign. This does not mean the half-baked and ineffectual version that DEFRA has cooked-up behind closed doors with Keep Britain Tidy.

Secondly, ensure that active and high visibility litter enforcement and fining is in place and being upheld in Sheffield.

As behavioural change experts, we know that the perceived fear of being fined is a powerful deterrent to litterers.

Ideally, this needs to be done by a private sector company, as in-house council enforcement fails in most places.

Thirdly, Sheffield Council needs to provide funding and genuine support to fantastic local groups that are carrying out amazing work in the area, such as Sheffield Litter Pickers and Love Our Streets.

Failing this, they should have the courage and honesty to say to the people of Sheffield that they have given up on the fight against litter, and are merely interested in engaging in the sort of misleading pretence perpetrated by Keep Britain Tidy and DEFRA.

Sheffield Litter Pickers also said they were ‘baffled’ by the description of Sheffield as a clean city.’

A spokesman added: “The hundreds of bags of litter we collect each month are testament to the fact that this is not the case. We would be very interested to learn how Keep Britain Tidy came to that conclusion."