Tom Sutcliffe: The littering that junk mail forces on us

Social Studies: Does a leaflet actually have to hit the floor before the subtle legal transformation between advertising and litter takes place?

Share
Related Topics

I experienced a modest pang of nostalgia on reading about the citizen activist who employed Section 91 of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act to force the Department of Transport to clear up the verges of the M40. I can't be absolutely sure, because it was some years ago now, but I think I once had a brief affair with this bit of legislative small print myself, when I lived close to a stretch of Islington pavement that was popular with fly-tippers.

Pleading with the council to come and clean away the eyesores proved only erratically successful, until I discovered the Litter Abatement Order, an obscure bit of red tape which only had to be lightly tugged to get the attention of whoever it was that sent out the clean-up crews. All you had to do was fax in the required notice that you were setting the legal wheels in motion – and usually within 24 hours the rubbish had gone. By the sound of it Peter Silverman had to go considerably further – actually getting to the stage of a court hearing. But in the end he prevailed – and, for a short while at least, you could eat your dinner off the verges of the M40.

Symptomatic relief only of course, since the underlying causes in each case (fly-tippers and oafish motorists) remained blithely out of reach of the Litter Abatement Order. As it happened, the report of Mr Silverman's heroic bit of I-know-my-rightsmanship coincided with a brief spike in litter in the road where I live – just the kind of thing to provoke a Litter Abatement Order letter, had it not been for the fact that the council had cleared it all away before I had time to get around to writing one. And the cause in this case made me wonder why the Environmental Protection Act doesn't cut out the middle men in such cases.

What had happened was a familiar enough occurrence in urban areas. A local business had sent someone down the road tucking a leaflet under every available windscreen wiper – most of which had ended up on the pavements, as a kind of oversized commercial confetti. And although individual motorists must have been involved in the transfer of the leaflets from windscreen (a private space?) to pavement (a public one), I couldn't help but feel that it was the business that had done the littering. I'd name and shame them, but for the fact that shame wouldn't be forthcoming and naming was what they were after in the first place.

Where do they stand in law I wonder? I've become reconciled to the fact that strangers are entitled to litter my hallway – and that while posting empty pizza cartons and flattened coke tins through my letterbox might be some sort of offence (would it?) it is perfectly legitimate to scatter pizza leaflets and takeaway menus across the floor. But what about the street outside? Does a leaflet actually have to hit the floor before the subtle legal transformation between advertising and litter takes place? Or does tucking it underneath a windscreen wiper count as private delivery? If not you hardly need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out where the buck stops – since getting the buck to stop at a particular address is the point of the exercise in the first place. Litter abatement orders are all very well – a useful crowbar to get a bureaucracy unstuck. But they're really being applied in the wrong place. We need something just as potent to stop the litter being printed and distributed in the first place.





Isn't it time the French dumped some manure?



It was strangely gratifying to learn that the French players had called a training strike in response to anxieties over their World Cup campaign – and not just because it's consoling to have company in misery. If the World Cup is about anything it's surely about the reinforcement of national stereotypes. Most of the commentators understand this – effortlessly hauling out the clichés of German technocratic efficiency and Brazilian rhythmic instinct when describing on-pitch action. But it's heartening to find a team committed to the principle too – ignoring special circumstances and reacting to adversity with the same Gallic verve that a disgruntled farmer or air-traffic controller would employ, should their interests be threatened.

Indeed it would be nice to see the team go further when they take to the field against South Africa: several tons of manure should be dumped on the halfway line and three tractors parked in the French goalmouth as an impromptu blockade. Some might argue that this would inflict needless misery on spectators who'd paid good money for the match, but, as anyone unfortunate enough to be on holiday in France during an industrial dispute would be able to tell you, irritating foreigners is just a kind of Dijon mustard to the dedicated gréviste. As for us – time for a bit of British spirit, the available flavours being Blitz or Dunkirk.





Disneyland of death



Staff at the Staglieno cemetery in Genoa are currently under suspicion of a ghoulish form of recycling – accused of stripping gold fillings and artificial limbs from corpses for their resale value. A local councillor hypothesised that the thefts were due to "psychological degradation" incurred by spending too much time around corpses. But it seems likelier that the staff in question just aren't paid enough – and found it grating that they were getting pennies for sweeping paths in a goldmine. No excuse for their solution, of course, but I have another one.

Everyone but relatives of the Staglieno's residents should be charged admission to this sadly under-exploited touristic resource. The Staglieno is one of the great cemeteries of the world, a Disneyland of wildly ill-judged funerary sculpture (such as the life-size memorial which captures the moment at which an interree was ravished by her top-hatted killer). True it can't boast quite as many celebrity dead as the Père Lachaise. But it makes up for that with an extravagance of melancholy style. It should be as much a fixture of any Italian tour as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Uffizi.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker