Ray Dawe: Astonishing amount of rubbish in district

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With longer days and more frequent grass and hedge cutting, the matter of litter and dealing with rubbish in general comes more to the council’s attention.

I was asked the other day about the signs you may have seen along some of our major roads where we can read about the high cost of clearing the hedgerows and grass verges along our district’s highways. We spend around £2000 a week in keeping our roads, particularly the A24, A272 and the A264 clean and that figure has been increasing.

Each month in Horsham District we clear around 14 tonnes of litter and fly-tips from public land and the highway.

While we are fortunate to have a community that takes pride in the appearance of our local environment, that is still an astonishing amount of rubbish.

We have long been fortunate to have a number of volunteer groups, organised in the main by parish councils, that have run things like village clean-up days and we are seeking to build on this.

We hope people will join in an initiative called “Adopt-a-Street” with the aim of encouraging individual residents and groups to think how in their own localities they can help keep areas free from litter on a more regular basis.

Given the size of the district and resources and budget allocated to litter, council staff are unable to cover all areas of the district daily and it is hoped that the initiative will create a strong community spirit and a volunteer base adding to the excellent work currently undertaken.

I saw the statistic that around 935 million packs of chewing gum are consumed in the UK every year, but only 10 to 20 per cent is disposed of in a litter receptacle. On average, there are three pieces of chewing gum on each square metre of pavement in Horsham town centre and it costs us as a community £15,000 a year to clean it up.

We need to encourage people to dispose of their chewing gum responsibly so we will shortly be installing special “Gumdrop” bins in hotspots in Horsham town centre.

These special Gumdrop receptacles collect used chewing gum, and, when full, are recycled in their entirety with other plastics and converted into more bins or used to create other products, such as mobile phone covers.

Bins have been installed at Southampton Airport, Virgin Trains-managed stations and by Cardiff City Council. The hope is that by changing a small habit we can make a big change to our environment.

Several years ago we introduced our ‘blue top’ bin kerbside recycling service which was positively embraced by residents.

It always strikes me how fortunate we are to have such a simple service compared with much more complicated recycling systems, with maybe four or five bins, that often exist elsewhere in the country.

One area of concern at the moment is the number of blue-top bins containing items that cannot be recycled, even a small amount of contamination can harm the recycling process and prevent good quality material from being recycled.

So with the aim to reduce contamination and boost recycling we shall be looking over the coming months at how we can re-enforce the message about recycling and clear up any confusion about what can be put in the bin.

We can all help by making sure we recycle the correct items and that they are clean, dry and loose.