Further news following a recent article to highlight the hard work and booming success of Wigan Litter Pickers volunteers. Until now town councils have been inundated with rocketing costs to manage tidying up litter discarded by motorists and commercial vehicles. The volume of discarded rubbish has increased massively since the end of lockdown 1. It may be litter thrown out by passengers or drivers. It can also be commercial vehicle payload lost by not being secured correctly. Even with the important, council supported and welcomed help of volunteers it is a huge task. It’s not just the cost, but the adverse impact on the environment, wildlife and residents. Of course it looks pretty ugly too. As a result, Maidstone county town in Kent are about to start a technology based trial. The aim is to assist with keeping the local environment clean yet at a manageable cost. It would appear the technology company helping have also approached Wigan and Sheffield. So are litter drivers fines coming to Wigan? We will keep our nose to the ground to find out.
Currently, the only way drivers can be fined for littering is being caught red handed by a warden. The warden can then issue a ticket resulting in a fine. However using new AI based technology, a council can access video evidence of automatically identified offending number plates. The software matches footage of litter being thrown out of a car with that of the vehicle’s licence plate.
After verifying the evidence, the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) will provide the council with the registered keeper’s details and a penalty notice can be sent through the post. The offender is given the chance to view the evidence via a LitterCam Portal.
The technology makes use of a change made to the law in 2017 that means prosecutors no longer need to prove who dropped the litter, with a fine simply issued to the owner of the vehicle.
Litter Drivers Fines Coming to Maidstone and Beyond?
Maidstone will use such technology in the first local council pilot scheme in the UK. Depending on the outcome it could be extended countrywide, to make Britain’s roads cleaner.
Fines begin at £90. They can increase to £120 after 15 days, if unpaid. The maximum on-the-spot fine in England is £150. Only 200 people were issued with penalty notices in Maidstone last year. A freedom of information (FOI) request by campaign group Clean Up Britain found that most local councils issue less than one fine for littering every week, while one in six issue no fines for littering at all.
With the introduction of LitterCams, Maidstone council expects this to rise to more than 1,000. Maidstone will have a LitterCam Portal available for anyone wishing to view the footage.
Derek Mortimer, Maidstone’s chairman of the communities, housing and environment committee, hopes the new scheme will highlight the council’s zero-tolerance policy on litter.
He said: “We have been looking at it for more than a year now and I’ve got a lot of confidence it’s going to make a difference. We have got quite a good reputation for taking action on fly tipping and we have a zero tolerance policy on litter across the board so this is really going to help us maintain that. I’m quite aware of people’s civil liberties and we’re not here to catch people out and send out multiple fines, it’s mainly a deterrent.“
Andrew Kemp, the inventor of LitterCam, is hoping to introduce it to Maidstone and Wigan, in April, before rolling it out to Sheffield at a later date.
Kemp is also in talks with Transport Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland regarding deployment of the technology in the country in the Spring.
Roadside Litter Effects on the Environment
All this comes following a huge increase in littering of public areas and roadsides, since the easing of restrictions from the first coronavirus lockdown last summer. Specialists have attributed this to the increased use of public spaces as access to private land (e.g. pubs, restaurants and leisure centres) was restricted.
Roadsides are home to a range of wildlife that we often miss. Hard evidence shows how litter can badly impact it. A study carried out by Keep Britain Tidy, discovered that 2,174 discarded bottles had killed 230 voles, mice and shrews. Small mammals are attracted to the inside of bottles in a search for sugar before becoming trapped. The RSPCA states that it receives 14 calls a day about animals affected by litter, and these calls increase in the summer months. It is somewhat alarming that the majority of voles have their habitat close to main roads as they avoid agricultural land which may be treated with animal unfriendly pesticides.
Litter also causes visual pollution, making roadside look untidy, and when rubbish is discarded by the roadside rather than being recycled it means new resources are required to produce new products. It can also result in toxins, entering the soil and water, which affects plant and animals life.
It can also cause a hazard in clogging drains and promoting local flooding.
Roadside Litter Effects on Local Residents
Cleaning up the litter is costly to local councils, which is passed on to the local population through taxation.
Campaigners have noted that littering on motorways only results in a fine if a police officer sees the offence occur, resulting in major roads strewn with debris. Highways England, which is responsible for clearing rubbish from motorways, turned down the offer of enforcement powers in 2016.
Highways England removes approximately 200,000 sacks of litter from the country’s motorways every year. The cost of doing so is around £50 a sack (about the same as fixing a typical pothole). Surely money that could be better spent elsewhere on road repairs? You only have to walk over public footpaths towards the M6 at Windy Arbour to see the effect. Eventually this rubbish can end up closer to the residential areas too. It is hard to imagine that there will never be a time where volunteers will not be useful. Whether that is through groups like Wigan Litter Pickers or those supporting our local canals through the Canal and River Trust.
Local councils are responsible for collecting rubbish on other major roads but can only do so if Highways England agrees to close the road. That happens only rarely on some roads. Thought provoking that drinks cans made as far back as 1989 have recently been tidies on the A27 from Wiltshire to East Sussex!
It is true that the who area of litter is highly complex with overlapping responsibilities between national bodies and local councils. Take a look at the Clean Up Britain website if you want a more detailed insight on this.
Just What is Thrown Away?
|Main Types of Litter||Amount|
|Fast Food Drinking Cups||5%|
|Soft Drink Cans||18.6%|
|Soft Drink Plastic Bottles||24.4%|
Litter Drivers Fines Coming? – Further Information.
For more on the technology referred to in this article as well as some fascinating information on the background to roadside litter in the UK, check out the following links;
A Facebook Group for anybody interesting in volunteering to keep their local area free from litter.
The campaign has one main objective: to find sustainable and effective solutions to Britain’s epidemic of litter and fly-tipping. Fascinating insight to what really goes on with government and councils with respect to litter.
Amazingly tracing its origins back to 1954! The National Federation of Women’s Institutes pass a resolution to “Keep Britain Tidy”. And the rest, as they say, is history…
The entrepreneurial behind the Maidstone trial and potentially Wigan. Improving environmental quality and reducing the risk of litter clearance with Artificial Intelligence.