Support The Clear Up For A Cleaner Britain

Steve-Lee-no-cut-out-webCIWM’s chief executive, Steve Lee, is delighted that Defra and the DCLG are involved in Community Clear Up Day, just ahead of the official launch of this year’s CIWM Clean Britain scheme… CIWM Journal Online Exclusive


Two Whitehall Departments – Communities & Local Government and Environment Food and Rural Affairs – are teaming up with Keep Britain Tidy for a “Community Clear Up Day” on 21st March. Their objective is to boost local anti-litter initiatives and to develop a social norm whereby littering is as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. Their modus-operandi is to encourage and support as many local clean-up events as possible through promotion and free access to posters, leaflets, social media… the whole communications “9 yards”.

CIWM is delighted to support this initiative and we are using every communications route available to us to spread and support the message. For two reasons.

Firstly, there is no doubt: litter is a scourge. It damages and destroys peoples’ pride in where they live. It has a measurable effect on health – physical and mental, and it harms and kills business investment in an area. It has no up-side. It also costs millions to clear up. I was with a London Borough recently and discovered they spend as much per year in street cleaning, litter and fly-tipping as they do on waste collections and recycling. In simple terms, they spend as much on waste out of control as they do on the waste in their control!

The good news is that if litter has no up-side, then preventing it has no down side either. What we need is year-round vigilance and action by everyone – individuals, community groups, our councils, businesses… and if we can build on the Community Clear Up Day to get to that steady-state, then it is effort well used.

Making It Socially Unacceptable

graffitiWe know where litter comes from: food and snacks/drinks “on-the-go”; chucked out of cars; poorly contained waste put out for collection; and smoking/gum chewing. In theory that makes it easier to spot ways to prevent it. The truth is that it is mostly about beliefs and behaviours – about influencing people; about making it normal to bin your wrapper, take your fast food packaging home and stub and bin that cigarette butt. We do indeed need to make it socially unacceptable not to do those things.

Secondly, the Community Clean up day comes in the week immediately prior to the launch of CIWM’s Clean Britain scheme. This is no “prettiest village” competition. Don’t get me wrong, if you live in a pretty place that’s wonderful – celebrate it! But the Clean Britain scheme, and subsequent awards, recognise and celebrate good ideas, good work and above all good communications to get everyone actively involved in getting the places where we live clean, and keeping them that way. We particularly value cases where people have learned how to do a good job and have passed that learning along to others. There’s no “stealing” when it comes to spreading best practice.

Both the Community Clean Up Day and the Clean Britain scheme share the ambition of making litter prevention and a fast response to it a year-round mind-set, not just a one-off event or award. Learning and sharing takes place 365 days per year and can happen in a thousand different ways. CIWM wants to create a virtual “community” around the problem of litter, putting practitioners of all kinds in touch with each other. We want to support efficiency in cleaning up, because – let’s face it – nothing attracts more litter like litter in the first place, and therein lies one of the great strengths of the Community Clear Up Day.

But we also want to get onto the proverbial front foot to prevent littering and fly-tipping in that first place. So…..we encourage as many people and groups as possible to take part in the clean up and we invite them to join in with the Clean Britain Awards as well. If we are going to win against litter we must be able to learn from each other!

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