Just last week, the Government announced its latest step in helping to preserve our environment; introducing tougher new fines of up to £150 for littering, now including littering from vehicles. As it stands, cleaning up our streets and countryside currently costs the taxpayer £800 million a year, an unthinkable amount of money for keeping our environment clean and habitable.
It is always disappointing to see littering or people carelessly discarding their rubbish for someone else to collect, and I, for one, am someone who will always pick up litter whenever I can. However we know that, in particular, fly-tipping is a real problem for our communities. For instance, just last year there were 334 incidents of fly tipping across St Edmundsbury alone, with around a third of these incidents on our highways involving the dumping of large loads of rubbish.
Undoubtedly, what makes it harder to tackle is the difficulty in catching litter louts on the spot. I know from my own conversations with one local business that is blighted by fly-tipping that they hope to install habitat cameras at renowned dumping sites, to intercept fly-tippers and catch them in the act; so far the only way to penalise anyone.
Yet it is welcome news that fines for littering will be heavy on the perpetrator’s purse, and not on the taxpayer. Making fines tougher and easier to administer - with new rules allowing local authorities to apply penalties for littering to vehicle owners if they can reasonably prove litter was thrown from their car - can help alleviate the pressure on our local authorities to clear up after litter louts.
This is absolutely the right approach to be taking, as any system of fines can only work if disincentives are sufficient. It is this individual self-responsibility, a strong conservative value of mine, which I am passionate about. We can, if helped, encourage people to do right by themselves, others, and the environment around us and this measure is just one means of achieving this.
This announcement was particularly timely given the news this week, that the County of Suffolk is on course in its aspiration to be the greenest county in the UK. Under the brilliant stewardship of David Barker, Suffolk has long been leading the way in reducing business energy costs and driving up recycling schemes and David’s decision to step down from this, is certainly our loss. But I am hoping his strong legacy will be built upon.
For instance, in our town we have our very own Karen Cannard, speaking out and drawing attention to food waste and how we can slim our bins, and I know Karen is keen to see our recycling aspirations go even further.
Without a doubt, we have some brilliant local leaders, full of bright ideas and working to incentivise good behaviours in the interest of our environment. But only by recognising that for the environment, ‘nature needs nurture’, can we continue to make the areas around us some of the greatest places to be.
Published in the Bury Free Press