Joan Smith: Excuse me, you've dropped your green credibility

Share
Related Topics

I used to have a beautiful pair of dark green suede stilettos, until I stepped in a horrible, sticky wad of chewing gum on my way home from a party. Not long after that, a friend arrived for dinner on a dark night and trailed dog faeces through the house, not realising she'd picked it up on her shoes. It's not unusual to find drink cans and crisp packets in my front garden, as though some ambulant snacker has passed in the night and couldn't be bothered to take their rubbish home.

What is wrong with these people? I've never dropped litter in my life, and on the rare occasion I inadvertently let go of a chocolate wrapper or a till receipt, I pursue it down the street with a burning sense of guilt. For years I picked up litter and handed it back to people who'd just dropped it, politely suggesting they dispose of it in a bin, but now I stop myself accosting litter louts because of the danger of being verbally abused. Even so, the scruffy state of British streets drives me mad, and the problem is getting worse, according to Whitehall and the campaigning organisation Keep Britain Tidy.

Levels of cast off sweet wrappers, non-alcoholic drink containers and fast-food cartons have all increased over the past 12 months. Smokers are the worst offenders, with eight out of 10 sites in an official survey blighted by cigarette butts; we've seen those forlorn huddles of smokers outside offices and shops, furtively lifting hand to mouth; an amazing number leave their detritus behind on the pavement when they return indoors. There's been a 4 per cent increase in hazards from chewing gum, and a rise in dog fouling in the winter months. Graffiti in shopping areas is at its worst level since this annual survey was first carried out.

What's weird about this is that it's happening at a moment when people claim to care more than ever about the environment. I'm delighted that so many individuals say they're worried about the ozone layer and greenhouse gases, busily calculating their carbon footprint. But what about nearer home? A substantial proportion of the population does not drop litter, but a campaign has just been launched to address those who do; it's called Love Where You Live, making the point that we share public space – high streets, shopping centres, parks, cinemas – and it's better for all of us if we look after it.

Dropping litter and gum is a form of bad manners that holds up two fingers to thinking about the effect of our actions on others. Occasionally, it's something worse, indicating an aggressive attitude that may spill over into terrifying violence on the slightest pretext: three years ago, 23-year-old Evren Anil was killed confronting two teenagers who had thrown a sweet wrapper into his sister's car at traffic lights in south London.

At a time when public money is in short supply, littering is expensive. Clearing up bus tickets, takeaway food cartons, plastic bags and cigarette butts cost an astonishing £858m last year in England alone, an extraordinary waste of money that could be spent on maintaining essential public services. And this underlines the need to change public behaviour. Offenders should be pursued and fined. Business could help by introducing refundable charges on cans and bottles. But it also takes education to make individuals feel part of civil society. Younger people, especially, support environmental causes, and a simple message needs to be got across: there's nothing green about being a litter lout.

www.politicalblonde.com

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an experie...

Recruitment Genius: Canteen Manager Required

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's Frozen...

Recruitment Genius: Canteen Assistants Required

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's Frozen...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Operational Administrator

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Two out of five marriages end in divorce but filling in the paperwork wrong can prove very costly  

Divorce is bad enough without the legal process around it making it so much worse

Simon Kelner
 

What Lord Myners tells us about the Royal Mail sell-off shows just how good the City is at looking after itself

Chris Blackhurst
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum