Fine targets for enforcement officers suggested to tackle litter problem

Council staff litter picking on the A66.

Richmondshire District Council is to look at introducing radical solutions to tackle the issue of littering, such as handing fine targets to enforcement officers armed with body cameras.

The council’s scrutiny committee heard while the impact of litter was having a negative effect on the tourist destination’s economy, its landscapes and the wellbeing and safety of people as well as wildlife, its dedicated team of ten staff and numerous volunteer litter pickers were facing an uphill struggle to keep on top of it.

Officers told the meeting there was a hard core of residents and visitors who believe littering is acceptable, due to “the increasing disconnect with the natural environment caused in part by alternative pastimes based around technology”.

They said other causes for littering included increasing consumption of food and drink on the go, a rise in car ownership, a lack of awareness of the costs of litter and the development of a culture of instant gratification.

A report to the meeting said “the desire to live in the moment means not
wanting to hold on to litter until a bin can be found and a reduced sense of responsibility beyond the self.”

The report said identified litter hotspots across the district included shopping areas and near secondary schools, but beauty spots, such as the falls at Richmond, Aysgarth and Keld and the villages of Wensleydale and Swaledale had also been badly affected.

Officers said areas which accumulate large volumes of fast food wrappers thrown from vehicles included roads leading out of Catterick Garrison and the roadsides of the A66 and A1 faced “a particular problem”.

The report stated: “Richmondshire’s litter is easily transported by wind or water to other places where it can do unseen damage such as in rivers.

“Richmondshire’s litter problem is a very visible manifestation of some people’s lack of awareness and care for the local environment, yet for others it remains one of the issues that they care very much about.”

The meeting heard while the authority had a £233,000 annual budget for collecting litter, there was a need for more litter bins, but a lack of funding to empty them.

Councillors said a fresh litter strategy needed to be developed with precise costings so the council could consider ringfencing funding for litter control staff and that housing developers could be made to pay for the ongoing costs of emptying bins.

Members also questioned whether introducing body cameras for litter control staff, mobile CCTV at hotspots and targets for litter fines would be appropriate in view of littering not reducing.

Councillors suggested that the authority could approach fast-food outlets to put customers’ details on the packaging for identification if discarded.

After it was agreed the council’s litter strategy should be reviewed, Councillor Paul Cullen, the committee’s chairman, said it was clear innovative ways to improve the situation were needed.

He said: “The problem has been with use forever and it doesn’t get any better. A group of litter pickers covered the road between Scotch Corner roundabout and the motorway junction at Barton and by the time they got back again it was just as bad.”

Councillor Cullen suggested if litter control staff were provided with cameras “people would know there’s a pair of eyes that could be used in evidence”.

He said: “With more fines the message might get home, but it’s a question of having the manpower to do that, which is a recurring theme.

“We haven’t even got sufficient staff to even empty all the bins and do al the litter picking.”