Litter tossers have no respect – for area or themselves

Rubbish outside allotment

It is hard to know which is worse: hundreds of discarded piece of litter, scattered over a reasonably wide area, or dumping rubbish in a concentrated spot, otherwise known as fly-tipping.

One, at best, involves a negligent slip of an item out of a hand, pocket or perhaps a vehicle; the other is a completely deliberate act to avoid disposing of items responsibly, perhaps at cost.

Both types of rubbish disposal could be deliberate, cigarettes or crisp packets flicked from cars for example. And both types of littering have been noted in the Earlswood area in recent days.

One hopes that the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s Joint Enforcement Team, whose attention has been brought to the pile of debris outside the entrance to the Earlswood allotments, will find evidence to point to the culprit.

It seems particularly ironic when rubbish is dumped in the countryside, because it is the antithesis of green living and spoils – in this case – the entrance to productive use of land.

According to Keep Britain Tidy, fly-tipping cost enforcement agencies (which could range from local authorities to the Environment Agency) £58million in 2016-17. According to DEFRA local authorities in England dealt with more than 1 million incidents of fly-tipping in 2018-19.

If dumped on private land, it could cost that landowner to have it removed. Fines for fly-tipping can range from £5,000 if convicted in a magistrates’ court to unlimited if convicted in a crown court.

It could be argued that some local or central government policies will lead to construction companies or private individuals fly-tipping. This is because there is a charge made at community recycling centres in Reigate and Banstead for certain items – plasterboard, rubble, bathroom fittings, soil, tyres for example. These are considered “non-household” waste.

While each household is likely to generate such rubbish once in a while – so it seems unfair to ask them to pay at a community recycling centre – it costs the council money to dispose of these items: and they have budgets to manage. Many items such as bricks or chimney tops can be repurposed, perhaps in a garden, but not all.

Much of the material dumped on this occasion could either have been recycled or put in black bin bags, or reused in some way. There are plenty of community groups on social media who might be able to reuse items, if people are willing to spend a little time trying to find a home for it that isn’t landfill or an incinerator. Responses to the tweet below – which brought the problem outside allotments to public attention this morning – brought recommendations of companies with appropriate disposal licences.

Or perhaps the items could have been put in a skip the culprit could have hired. Skips costs money, but one would be built into the cost of whatever project a householder is working on. There are some people who prefer to burn items, of course, which is not a pleasant method for their neighbours, especially at hot times of the year. Many items will give off toxic fumes, too.

Anyone who can trace the source of a bonfire could try reporting it as anti-social behaviour to Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, but it isn’t on the list of issues that qualify. However, fly-tipped rubbish is on the list the council will deal with – and their Greenspaces team have done so on several occasions to my knowledge recently. If you take part in a clean up and see items you really cannot reach or carry, simply report them. Acknowledgements and confirmations will follow.

Litter dropping can also bring fines – on the spot fines if someone with enforcement rights happens to be in the area. Which is unlikely in the case of the underpass outside Earlswood station. While this is managed by Network Rail, the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council JET team recently proved amenable to clearing the passageway on Monday. Sadly, two days later items have started to accumulate once more.

Network Rail have recently responded to resident requests to clear alongside the railway line on Brook Road. It seems they respond to requests, rather than having a schedule for regular clearances. It is not hard to imagine how rubbish finds its way to be next to the rail line – and it isn’t by being thrown out of carriage windows! There have been items such as pushchairs. Way too big for windows, even if by some miracle all the rubbish out of train windows landed in this small spot along the train’s route.

People who drop or fly-tip rubbish clearly have no respect for the environment, or the community who would like to use open spaces for pleasure. When dropped items include personal protective equipment, so badly needed in recent months by medics but now being used widely, one wonders whether the people who drop it have respect for themselves. Do they not want to use it again to protect themselves?

They might like to consider the signs put up in York, which questions why they throw litter.

“Why are you tossing litter?” the billboard asks. Tickboxes present possible answers. “I am lazy. I don’t care about this community. I think other people should pay to clean up after me.”

At the bottom is simply says: “Don’t be a tosser. You brought rubbish here, please take it home with you.”

The messaging seems to have been adopted by the Keep Britain Tidy campaign GB Spring Clean, which was postponed from March and April until September.