For more than 20 years, London Clean & Green has tried to impress upon Londoners the harmful impact littering has on the community.
Unfortunately, supporters admit, all too often people fail to consider the impact of littering.
There are environmental and economic impacts to littering, not to mention threats to public health and community safety, never mind the visual impact it can have to the common view of a city.
These are just some of the harmful impacts of litter and is why the London Clean & Green — and its currently underway 12 Days of Cleaning — is focused on convincing Londoners to think before they toss away their trash.
At the London Clean & Green kickoff event April 11, Mayor Matt Brown put the consequences of littering into context.
The unfortunate part of spring, the mayor said, was that it unveils the dirtier side of the Forest City.
“There is piles and piles of illegally dumped trash that needs to be removed and graffiti that needs to be covered up,” Brown said. “I want to remind people that litter and trash are unfortunately a common sight in London this time of year. I think we can agree it’s disgusting, it’s discouraging, it’s disappointing.”
It’s also a waste of resources, Brown said, because even though the materials recovered during the annual community cleanup — set this year for Saturday, April 21 — can be recycled, they are often less valuable because it’s been on the ground for months instead of being properly disposed of in a timely manner.
Jay Stanford, London Clean & Green committee member and the City of London’s director of environment, fleet and solid waste, said looking back to the initiative’s launch in 1996, he still struggles with the central idea of why litter is created in the first place.
His answer is broken down into four categories.
First is Accidental Litter, which is something everyone contributes to, albeit unintentionally. This includes materials blown out of blue boxes and trash cans.
Then there is What Is Litter? Whether or not someone doesn’t consider a banana peel, an apple core, or peanut shells to be litter, they are. The impact of them being tossed to the ground is it attracts other litter and therefore shouldn’t be there.
Lazy Litter, Stanford said, is casually dropped aside by people who justify their actions by telling themselves someone else will pick it up.
Then there is Stanford’s worst case scenario, the Who Cares Litter, which he suggests is created by people who have no community pride and don’t care about their neighbourhood.
Stanford explains there is a “long list of ideas and reasons why litter is bad,” but two issues in particular put the problem into focus.
For one, litter is a nuisance and not what most people want to see London in.
Then there are hazards that come with litter, especially one example in particular, cigarette butts.
The cigarette filter is there to pull out harmful chemical contaminants such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. If that cigarette butt ends up on the ground and gets into the city’s storm sewers, area creeks or the Thames River, the cigarette butt will leach those chemicals into London’s water eco-system.
These consequences of littering is why Brown is calling on Londoners to once again heed the call to take part in the community cleanup.
“After 22 years of practice, I think we can do the best Clean & Green this city has ever seen,” Brown said. “Litter is unsightly, it doesn’t just disappear. It takes all kinds of work from all kinds of volunteers to address it.”