Letter: Solutions to litter blight

I READ with interest and sad resignation your February 2 South Downs edition lead article on fly-tipping and littering and have to agree with the description you use: it is a blight on our otherwise wonderful country.

However, I believe there are relatively simple solutions available that will reduce significantly the problem of both littering and fly-tipping.

Firstly, littering. Much litter is caused by abandoned drinks containers and those who, like I, grew up in the 1950s will remember when abandoned drinks bottles were a rarity - and the reason for this was that all bottles carried a deposit, refundable at any shop selling the product.

Even if wealthy adults didn’t want the few pence refund, to schoolboys such as I it was a significant sum to enhance one’s pocket money. The advent of cans and no-deposit bottles (a rather unwelcome US import) has meant that there is now no incentive for people to return bottles and cans.

Some might think that this rather antiquated system would never work today - but it will - and in Canada it does. Every drinks container carries a deposit (the amount of which is printed on the container) and every retailer is obliged to accept, and refund the deposit on, cans and bottles, regardless of their provenance.

Added to this ‘carrot’ there is also a ‘stick’ - littering is an offence and fines are heavy and automatic - $1,000 was the figure I had heard.

Of course, this does not address the problem of other litter - but the fact that Canadians have to collect and return their drinks containers creates the habit of tidiness.

And for larger items of waste, Canada has tips as do we - although they don’t have the distinction that we have here about trade and private waste. It’s all waste and anyone can tip anything. And, to help defray the cost of running these tips, anyone can buy someone else’s rubbish, legally and easily.

So it you are looking for a secondhand sink unit and someone has dumped one, you can just load it, take it to the office and negotiate a price.

Which brings me to fly-tipping. Why, do you think, businesses fly-tip rather than use the official tip? Because they have to pay to use the official tip, that’s why.

And remember, to be considered as being a ‘trader’ you need only have too high a vehicle or too large a trailer and you are automatically ‘trade’ - regardless of what rubbish you are carrying - and as a ‘trader’ you pay for the privilege of disposing of your waste.

And this is why Horsham District Council spends £28,000 a year on clearing illegally tipped waste. So, why not save that £28,000 and use it to subsidise the costs of the official waste sites by letting ‘trade’ waste be dumped free of charge?

Most fly-tippers would use a proper site if it were free. And why not adopt the Canadian system of allowing users to buy others’ abandoned items if they wish?

This income could further subsidise the system. Now, of course, anything that is unloaded at a Sussex council tip - even if it is only just removed from someone’s boot and is spotted by someone who wants it - becomes the property of the tip and cannot be removed. So potentially good and valuable items go to scrap or recycling, rather than serve another term with another owner.

I realise that there will be problems to overcome and, as ever, the devil lurks in the detail - but if it works in Canada it could work here. Remember, no significant additional infrastructure needs to be put in place; the vehicles that deliver the full cans and bottles to the store take away the empties when they return to the depot.

Of course, the store has to provide storage facilities and there needs to be some kind of accounting system in place - but these are simply extensions to systems that stores will already have in place.

I live in hopes that I will live long enough to see a return to the unlittered ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ I knew as a boy.

RICHARD ENGLISH

Church Road, Partridge Green