Leeds plans how to go Litter Free

Litter. Dog poo. Flytipping. It looks awful, attracts rats and other vermin, risks health, kills wildlife and pollutes the environment. Leeds City Council spends tens of thousands a year clearing it all up, money that could be put to very much better use. Community groups like the Friends of Cross Flatts or Middleton Parks, or Beeston in Bloom, do clean-ups – and back it comes. So why does it persist, and what can be done about it?

This was the theme of an exciting one day event held at Pudsey Civic Hall on Thursday 23 February 2017. Around 150 people, groups as well as concerned individuals, met to discuss the issues and find solutions. We wanted to make suggestions for positive change, and work out what we can all do about this menace.

The Junior Green Team, 5 pupils from Windmill Primary School, came early to the stage to give their views. They spoke of the dangers of broken glass to themselves and to wildlife, the mess on the streets and in playgrounds and parks, and encouraged everyone to pick up after themselves. They spoke clearly and with passion and inspired us adults to do better.

Keep Britain Tidy presented fascinating figures about our habits.  Apparently, 62 % of the population drops litter at some time. Of these, 43% – mainly women aged 45+ – consider themselves “beautifully behaved” but do still occasionally drop litter, such as apple cores (yes, that’s me) and sweet wrappers, especially if they think they are unobserved. Others are “blamers”. They say it’s everyone else’s fault, but do still litter themselves, while 4% are “justifiers”, their reasons for dropping litter or failing to pick up dog poo range from keeping people in jobs to claiming it’s not harming anyone. Finally, there are the 2%, mostly men under 25, whose view is that “life’s too short – I’m not bothered”. For these, peer pressure is a big deterrent, and posters showing litterers looking like pigs have been very effective.

Dog fouling, it’s found, happens more at night and during the winter as people reckon they can’t be seen in the dark. To tackle this, Keep Britain Tidy has ‘We’re Watching You’ posters, visible in darkness, which ‘charge up’ during the day and glow-in-the-dark at night. Dog fouling has reduced by to 90% where the sign’s been introduced. Groups across Leeds, including the Friends of Cross Flatts Park, were very interested in this.

Other suggestions made at workshops during the event included:

  • Bottle deposit schemes
  • Approaching florists about their cellophane wrappers, which litter cemeteries
  • Asking businesses to sponsor litter bins – free advertising in return for emptying
  • Recognition of responsible retailers with awards and certificates; create an urban environment quality mark
  • Encouraging businesses and local groups to work together – many of us already do this
  • Ask Leeds City Council not to charge small builders for using household waste sites – this might prevent countryside fly-tipping and be cheaper in the long run
  • Writing “bin it when it’s empty” on takeaway food cartons
  • Use speed cameras/ mobile CCTV to identify drivers who chuck rubbish out of cars

All the ideas were recorded and will be circulated. People wrote offers and requests for help on sheets tacked to the wall (see picture).

Finally, we decided on a city wide campaign, Litter Free Leeds. You can join this on Facebook and exchange news and views. A Leeds Clean Up day is planned. As a Belle Isle representative said, “If you live in a nice clean place, you yourself feel better”.


This post was written by Al Garthwaite using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.