Return to offender and tackling repeat litter offenders

Food wrapper litter

Yesterday was Earth Day, the 50th such annual day when we are encouraged to think of our planet.

The official website of the movement says that “on April 22 we flooded the world with hope, optimism and action” about improving the earth’s future, environmentally.

Plenty of organisations took up the theme, including Surfers Against Sewage, based in Cornwall, which campaigns to improve the plight of oceans, particularly in relation to beaches.

This charity makes plenty of noise nationally. Their name sounds muckier than many of their campaigns, which are aimed at litter, particularly plastic. One of their regular campaigns is to ask people to take a picture of branded litter – particularly plastic bottles – on beaches and shame the manufacturer by calling them out on social media.

The idea is that the manufacturer takes some responsibility for its packaging. For example, the tweets call for the brand to make fewer drinks in plastic – which never breaks down – and for the industry to support campaign calls for a deposit return scheme. 

The latter is a great idea, as it would give the miscreants who litter our open spaces – not just beaches or even merely waterways – a financial incentive to take back their empty drinks containers (cans or bottles). They would receive a partial refund on their original purchase.

Surfers Against Sewage’s latest campaign is called #ReturnToOffender, attacking the manufactrer at source as the perpetrator.

There’s much in that, of course. Wrappers could be made of materials that decompose.

Asking for a deposit return scheme urges industry to agree that action is required and is one way of addressing the problem.

But ultimately the real offenders are the people who repeatedly litter our open spaces without a care.  Even if all food wrappers could be made of materials that decomposed, would it stop people littering? A mindset change might be needed, too.

Pictured below is a site on Earlswood Common, Redhill, that was cleared about a week ago.

A repeat litter spot on Earlswood Common

A repeat litter spot on Earlswood Common