Europe’s top litter prevention organisations including BCC member, Keep Britain Tidy, are meeting this week with the message that it’s costing too much to keep our environment clean.
Organised by The Clean Europe Network, the first ever Stop Litter Now! Summit in Brussels, aims to bring attention to the staggering amount of money spent by Europeans on litter removal.
The network says that cleansing Europe’s towns and countryside costs around €25 (£20) per person per year.
Estimates for Northern Ireland come out at about €26 (£21) per person, whereas French figures go as high as €40.
This expense does not include the indirect social costs to communities of dirty neighbourhoods, where business is lost, crime is more likely to occur and there is detrimental impact on health and well-being. If the cost of marine litter was included the expense would be even higher.
Europeans collectively spend a whopping €10 to €13 billion annually on cleaning-up, at least part of which could be better spent on things like health care, education and job creation. Most of what gets collected at massive cost is litter, carelessly or deliberately discarded. The only way to make real savings is to cut litter at the source all across Europe.
More resources need to be put into changing the attitudes and behaviour of Europeans towards litter.
“We want a litter free Europe by 2030. We are pulling all the stops out to improve our individual litter prevention campaigning by working together at European level,” says Derek Robertson, president of the Clean Europe Network.
“We applaud the fact that the Commission’s proposed new waste directive addresses litter for the first time. But there is simply not enough emphasis put on preventing litter. We can all argue about who pays for clean-up but the most important thing to prioritise is creating clean communities in the first place. We want to
build and strengthen a culture of cleanliness across Europe.”
The EU’s waste management hierarchy prioritises prevention. In the case of litter, however, prevention has very little to do with waste management and everything to do with changing people’s behaviour. It requires Europe’s citizens to be more conscious of the need to do the right thing and dispose of their rubbish responsibly. Addressing
the litter challenge as a pure waste management issue risks placing undue emphasis on cleansing after the fact and a controversial debate over the associated costs.
The Stop Litter Now! Summit will bring together a wide range of stakeholders, including Keep Britain Tidy, to showcase what is being done around Europe to change behaviour through better communication, education and mentoring.