Caring about litter isn’t a load of rubbish

Paul Thrupp explains why the British Cleaning Council (BCC) is backing Keep Britain Tidy’s environmental campaign.

I’ve talked before in this column about how the BCC uses money generated from The Cleaning Show to support projects which look to advance the cleaning sector in some shape or form. Historically this funding has also primarily been directed towards initiatives which focus on the act of cleaning itself, rather than looking at wider issues such as the environment and behaviour change.

However, thanks to some excellent work by BCC member Keep Britain Tidy (KBT), this year we’ve got involved in a major campaign which impacts on everyone – the scourge of litter and its impact on the environment.

KBT are driving the national debate on this issue, challenging the government, businesses and the general public to do more to tackle the problem. Through our grant-giving scheme, the BCC is delighted to be helping KBT’s mission, and we recently funded an event hosted at Middlesex University to explore the link between litter and environmental quality.

The session attracted a wide range of participants – including academics, politicians and other key influencers – and they discussed issues as diverse as sewer-blocking wet wipes, the relationship between litter and crime, and the devastating consequences of aquatic and marine litter.

Among those addressing the event was Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman, who spoke about how we need to ensure the environmental challenges we are facing become key elements of social and environmental policies in the future.

Another participant was Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, who outlined how the Agency was working hard to regulate to protect the environment and ensure businesses take environmental risks seriously.

KBT Chief Executive and BCC Council member, Allison Ogden-Newton, also spoke – pointing out that KBT’s Great British Spring Clean (described as ‘the country’s biggest mass-action environmental campaign’) had seen more than 540,000 volunteers cleaning up rubbish from streets, parks and beaches.

Allison went on to say that by bringing together politicians, academics and activists – and by learning from each other – we have the opportunity to develop innovative solutions which could make a measurable, long-term difference to our society and the environment.

It was an incredible event, both inspiring and challenging, and the BCC were proud to be a partner. However, our support for KBT and our interest in this issue was not a one- off, and the Council has also supported KBT’s Journal of Litter and Local Environmental Quality with grant funding.


This groundbreaking, peer-reviewed publication reports on the latest thinking into the causes and solutions for litter-borne pollution. It also addresses an important gap in the sector by creating a platform for the discussion of the latest research and thinking on litter and local environmental quality.

Now on its third edition, the Journal has covered an array of important topics including how the presence of large litter items increases the likelihood of additional litter being dropped (something similar to the ‘Broken Window’ theory of crime escalation in urban areas); the impact of litter on wildlife (including how littered drink containers threaten populations of small mammals); and the fact that 76% of people surveyed said that if they were made aware of the environmental impacts of a product they thought was ‘flushable’ they would no longer purchase it.

So, while some might argue these subjects are a long way from the day-to-day business of cleaning, the fact is there is a direct correlation between attitudes towards hygiene and cleanliness and attitudes towards littering.

Furthermore, I’d argue that the importance of things being kept clean – something everyone in our industry would I’m sure agree on – is as much about us maintaining our public realm, coasts and countryside as it is about the state of our homes, streets, offices and shared buildings.

You can find out more about the Middlesex event on the BCC website, and to request a copy of the Journal you can email Sabina Khan.

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