Let’s Not Be Fly about Tipping
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 29th May, 2007
Bill Bryson, squillionaire author of cheeky but pertinent travel books, has taken on a new guise: as Sir Galahad, confronting the litter louts. In an article in tonight’s Evening Standard, he rails against the way that London has become Trash City. And he comes out with the startling statistic that there are over a million incidents of fly-tipping in Britain each year. I wish I could say I am surprised. But the street I walk down to get home gets its ‘delivery’ almost nightly. Yesterday morning, there was a sofa and a personal gym treadmill blocking the pavement. Last week, it was a chest of drawers. And all around this heavy duty stuff, there is a sea of small-scale rubbish, much of which is dropped by carloads of youngsters who drive into the street to eat their take-aways, and then casually dump the containers and drinks cans out of the windows. Moreover, the eastbound District Line train that takes me to Mile End is a dustbin on wheels after about 10 o’clock at night, carpetted with newspapers, bottles, and half-eaten food.
Of course, Bill Bryson is not the first prominent figure to lament this state of affairs. Jeremy Paxman said much the same thing recently — and was much derided for his pains. Therein lies much of the problem. Too many people here increasingly take it for granted that the place often looks like a pigsty and don’t think it’s a serious matter. They seem to have lost all sense of civic pride and community responsibility. Yet they marvel when they travel to the continent at how comparatively clean other major European cities are, and don’t seem to make the connection between that and the need to discourage fly-tipping and littering, by both carrot and stick. Regarding the latter, Bryson is right when he declares that ‘litterers should know that there is a good chance they will be caught and given a fine that is meaningfully painful’. Not just £50 or a conditional discharge, but something in the thousands of pounds. As he is president-designate of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, we can expect more from him on such matters. And I hope he will keep mentioning the sorry aspect of our cities as well!