Cllr Kevin Pressland: Plague of litter never ends


Green Councillor Kevin Pressland is a passionate campaigner for nature and the natural environment.  His understanding of the threats faced by the natural world is based on expertise gained from a 40-year career in horticulture, garden design and sustainable land management.

Litter is a constant burden to local authorities, scarring to the eye and certainly damaging to wildlife, causing insurmountable harm, stress, pain and sometimes death.

The government should take more action to reduce packaging, and not allow themselves to be constantly influenced by the interests of the packaging industry in preference to the public, environment and other creatures.

Thirty million tonnes of litter are collected from our streets every year – enough to fill four Wembley Stadiums. Litter costs in the  UK were £669 million in 2022, costing each household £30 per year according to government statistics.

The most commonly littered item is cigarette butts on 79% of sites. The next three most littered items, all ‘food and drink on the go’ related, are confectionery packs (found on 60% of sites), soft drink bottles and cans (52%) and fast-food related litter (33%).

At least one item of litter is found on every 50 cm of beach.

In rural areas particularly along roads and nearby hedgerows, layers of litter are developing due to decades of people in vehicles chucking their rubbish out the window and or in laybys. In the wider countryside, where people want to enjoy beautiful areas, a percentage of people seem incapable of realising that throwing litter will actually harm the beauty of the place long term. There is clearly a mental block in society and indeed in parenting and education that allows this attitude to persist.

Fines for littering are small compared to the degree of the problem. For 2021/22, 23,700 (26%) of fixed penalty notices were issued specifically for small scale fly-tipping, 42,500 (47%) in relation to littering, 5,900 (6%) in relation to household duty of care and 19,000 (21%) in relation to other waste offences.

Local councils throughout the country are budget constrained yet littering continues apace and ironically could lead to revenue creation if effective law enforcement of litter fines were implemented.

Thanet council did have litter enforcement officers employed but these did not work out. However, there are conscientious people out there who I am sure would be prepared to take on such a job. This would require two litter enforcement officers working together for security reasons. This has potential also for accruing revenue for councils, parish, district, county and urban councils.

TDC has a great officer liaising with schools to highlight the issues relating to litter. The Ramsgate Litter Forum ,which brings together TDC, Ramsgate Town Council and community groups and also, the Botany Bay community Interest company that organises litter picks and many other volunteer groups in Thanet are trying tirelessly to tackle litter.. Whilst these are great initiatives and need supporting and applauding the nub of the problem still remains.

It should not be down to volunteers again and again to help reduce the litter that just continues apace when councils cannot cope.

At the end of the day, society has to act on the packaging issue that has got out of control. Large corporations like Nestles, Cadbury, Unilever, crisp and other confectionary producers etc continue to produce products with largely unbiodegradable/compostable packaging creating a time bomb for future generations, blighting the environment and adding to the mix of issues that are causing the demise of the diversity of this planet week on week, month on month, year on year.

Why hasn’t the UK government acted like France and banned plastic packaging on 30 fruits and vegetables? Spain, Portugal and Luxemburg will do the same this year.

Plastic Free Communities are feasible and a just ambition  Future generations will thank us if we ban single use plastics and likely denigrate us if we do not.

Ridding the Oceans of plastic –


  1. its nice to see an honest report on the rubbish found around thanet , the graffiti is a major problem here as well

    • Mr Pressland- do the numbers in your third paragraph refer simply to Thanet or to a larger part of the UK?

    • It is disappointing to read that the litter enforcement officers ”did not work out”. How can that be ?

      The picture of Botany Bay accompanying the article presumably comes from last summer and relates to visitors who bought their own paper plates, crates of beer, etc. – and many of whom just leave their rubbish on the beach. Enforcement officers on the beaches (particularly at weekends) may help alleviate this problem.

      At least the picture shows some attempt to leave the rubbish in or near the bin – where it then gets attacked and strewn around by seagulls because TDC does not supply enough bins and/or empty them with sufficient frequency.

  2. The problem is lack of bins due to vandalism and lack of respect from people who just toss rubbish anywhere!

    Easy to blame the government, but its the general public of all ages that are solely to blame!

    • Ian,
      I do that all the time outside my Ramsgate House.
      The main culprits are beer cans, soft drinks containers, cigarette packets, and McDonalds wrappers – even though I live over a mile from the nearest McD’s ! Oh , and those plastic bags containing dog excrement are constantly dropped between the kerb and my parked car!
      If everybody kept the area directly outside their own house clear of rubbish it would make a huge difference.

  3. Yes, litter does not come from nowhere. Perhaps if we stop talking in pejorative terms about parts of the District and instead encourage people to look after their immediate area,it might help.
    More enforcement, quicker clean ups, and bigger bins where necessary ,are all possible solutions.

  4. It’s not uncommon for cowboy builders to put builders rubble into litter bins so the bins don’t want to be too big or the man who empty’s the bins will need a crane to lift the bags out of the bins. Take away rubbish and seagulls have a lot to answer.

  5. Bigger bins, government fault , TDC fault.

    The blame is 100% on peoples lack of pride in where they live. It’s that simple. All age groups litter. Not more bins or the government or TDC people are happy to litter. Thanet in particular is a dirty, graffitied, littered place and lots of its people are happy to live like this.

    If bins are full you take your rubbish home.

  6. Ok! Is it visitors not disposing of their waste or locals probably a bit of both.The huge quantities of waste generated at Margate each summer is where I wonder how much the visitor economy is really generating.
    Perhaps a tax on each takeaway container of say 10p might generate more cash for waste management.At the moment the polluter (KFC, McDonald’s Greggs etc) does not pay,and while the purchaser of the food should dispose of the litter responsibly it is not always that easy,and the local area pays the price.

    • Surely the polluters are the public. I’m sure Macdonald’s, Gregg’s and KFC will have their waste taken by a licensed waste disposal company.

      I dont see how to can accuse the companies selling food.

  7. Plastic packaging is the big problem, paper degrades quickly as does glass. Mac Donald’s supplies mostly paper packaging which is excellent and Morrisons supply great paper shopping bags, and Coca-Cola so much better out of glass bottles. Penalise plastic packaging and products.

  8. The writer is correct in that this is a national issue.

    Thanet is in a minority where the Council is unable to get any sort of grip of the problem which has led to the streets being filthy with litter and dog faeces.

    If it wasn’t for the army of volunteers helping out, I really don’t know how bad it would actually get.

    Labour came to power on a ticket of clean streets and that’s one of the main things they will be judged on come the next local elections.

  9. One in five people rent, and many do not understand when the Bin men collect rubbish, and what it is they collect! For instance, thousands of properties certainly in Ramsgate, have their rubbish collected either in Black Sea Gull Proof bags, or Red bags for paper/cardboard, and Blue Bins for glass/metal. Its not uncommon to see people putting out their Red Bag on the wrong day, consequently their rubbish stays out for a week, getting blown down the road! Similarly with plastic containers, which are put out on the wrong day, and the contents get blown away too.

    I would like to see all rented property have a notice fixed to the front door, explaining what bins/bags are for, and when they should be put out for collection. There should be a penalty for people who put their rubbish out on the wrong day, and also put it out too early, so its attacked by vermin! It is mostly people in rented accommodation that cause litter, mainly because they move frequently, and don’t care if their rubbish litters the road!

    • So many generalisations, assumptions and sheer nonsense in this post I genuinely don’t know where to start with a response.

      I’ll just say this. There are plenty of other areas in the UK with similar levels of privately rented properties which haven’t got the level of filth we have on our streets.

      • This is my lived experience Thanetian Blind Since 1972 I have bought 11 properties, I haven’t lived in them all, but since moving to Thanet 20 years ago, I have never seen so much filth in the streets, as here! Another problem is a great deal of litter is caused close to schools, again thats my lived experience. Kids today seem more able to buy snacks close to school, and then throw the rappers/tins away after use!

  10. How about replaceing all the bins that the council have removed that could be a smart a year they have removed at least 8 last yr ,before thatafew and yr before that…

  11. The sign of the Times with everything else going on in the world I agree the generation rent don’t give two hoots about conserving what they dump and of course the lack of rubbish bin management by the council is yet to be desired ,the solution is simple make everyone responsible for every drop and that includes the slap dash Council bent on saving money,they need to use the hush money fund to pay for good bins they took away over the years along with road sweepers they simply vanished !

  12. I have lived in and among rented housing for most of my life. I disagree with Philco’s assertion that people who rent “don’t give two hoots about conserving what they dump”.

  13. Yes I’m not saying everyone that rents doesn’t care but there is a lack of responsibility on the generation now with all the cutbacks and people too stressed with the cost of living ,I think the answer is a rethink of everyone to join together and have a community but with all the people moving in from abroad etc that don’t really want to engage with the British way really it’s a recipe for disaster in the long run ,the conservatives should be living in shame for lining the pockets of the few at the expense of the many

  14. Occasionally a middle aged man collects all the rubbish in my road, which has 84 houses in it, and I stopped to talk, and thank him some time ago. He isn’t English, and doesn’t even live in my road, but an adjacent one! Litter in the streets devalues property!

Comments are closed.