'Dashboard' reveals extent of littering in England

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 13 February 2018

Defra has published a ‘litter dashboard’ which it says will explain the government’s approach to understanding the extent of litter and littering in England.

Beach_litter_PR
© Natasha Ewins

With deposit refund systems being closely discussed at the moment, the data here clearly shows that as well as plastic in general being a problem, drinks containers overall are a major component of litter

Dr Sue Kinsey,
MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer

It uses figures from the MCS Great British Beach Clean, Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean as well as individual reports. It also lists people’s perception of litter, the cost of street cleaning and the general cleanliness of public places.

Defra say that “changes in these numbers over time will help to inform policy development, and assess progress towards our goal of achieving a substantial reduction in litter and littering.”

The dashboard shows that results from our Great British Beach Clean found, on average, a whopping 744 items of litter per 100 metres of beaches cleaned in 2016

In 2016 and 2017, local authorities spent £682m or £29 per household to keep streets clean and Highways England spent at least £6m a year on collection litter from the Strategic Road Network during the same period.

Defra says that the Litter Strategy for England shows that litter is an important national issue. “We need to understand how litter affects England. We want to do so in ways that are impartial, affordable and statistically reliable. In order to reduce litter and littering, we want to change people’s behaviour, not simply to clean up litter.”

How it works

The ‘dashboard’ of indicators covers litter from five angles -

litter on the ground (including beach litter)

public perception of litter

cleanliness of public places

involvement of the public in doing something about litter

the cost to the public of keeping the streets clean

Although Defra say the dashboard isn’t a definitive measure of litter it does illustrate the current state of littering in England. Defra say that over time they may include additional indicators or improve existing ones if new data emerges.

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer says she hopes the information will be used to inform action not just to report on a problem: “With deposit refund systems being closely discussed at the moment, the data here clearly shows that as well as plastic in general being a problem, drinks containers overall are a major component of litter. Therefore, to be really effective in reducing litter and increasing high quality recycling any system in England must cover all drinks containers - plastic, glass and metal.”

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Organise a beach clean
  2. Join a beach clean
  3. Help us stop the plastic tide
  4. Visit the beachwatch website
  5. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017

Did you know?…

MCS launched its Beachwatch programme in 1994

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute

Why not join a beach clean ... or organise one?

To date, our beach clean volunteers have removed 6 million pieces of litter from our beaches and collected marine litter data to support our campaigns for cleaner seas and beaches.

Learn more and join a beach clean

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