Litter Bin Strategies - why have one?

With more than 2 million pieces of litter being dropped daily in the UK (1), littering is something which is frequently encountered by us all. Not only does litter visually impact the environment, but it can also harm local wildlife and pollute our waterways; the presence of litter can also negatively harm perceptions of an area and discourage investment. For local authorities themselves, the clean-up costs of litter can be high. Litter Bin Strategies build on three critical elements (education, enforcement and infrastructure) to reverse this trend and improve littering behaviours. These were highlighted in the 2017 Litter Strategy for England (Defra), which is aiming to be ‘the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it found it’.

Its mostly about the people…

Litter Bin Strategies provide local authorities with an approach to engagement and education, which can be key to changing the behaviours that lead to individuals dropping litter in the first place. By making individuals aware of the negative social, economic and environmental impacts that littering can cause, it is more likely to influence these behaviours. Engaging with stakeholders (e.g. voluntary/litter picking groups, businesses) and residents (e.g. through a public consultation exercise) is important when developing a Litter Bin Strategy, to understand their views about littering and bins in the area, how they believe litter bins should be managed and any litter hotspots they are aware of. These findings can be invaluable to help steer the contents and focus of the Strategy.

But you can only use what is available…

Understanding your infrastructure is also critical. It is advisory to firstly undertake a litter bin audit to determine the location, type and condition of existing “binfrastructure” within the area. This can help to highlight areas which are under/over serviced by litter bins, and methods of addressing these problems can be explored within the Strategy. WRAP’s ‘The Right Bin in the Right Place’ document explores a number of factors, such as litter bin type (e.g. recycling on the go bins, smart bins) and design (e.g. apertures, colour, signage), which should be considered when deciding on the bin infrastructure to service an area with. It also provides opportunity to introduce a litter bin protocol (if not already in place), for example, to help determine the outcome of new litter bin requests against a set of pre-determined criteria. This helps to ensure that bin infrastructure is situated in only the most appropriate locations, which in turns helps to address littering and local authority costs.

And as a last resort…

Enforcement is often required to further tackle littering problems, despite the positive influence that engagement, education and the appropriate type/location of infrastructure can have. A common method of enforcement, used by councils, is the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), which typically results in the offender being ordered to pay a fine. The upper limit for the value of FPNs currently sits at £500 (2), but litter authorities (i.e. a council) have the discretion to determine the level at which they set it. Therefore, this highlights the importance of a Litter Strategy, to outline procedures regarding reviewing the level of enforcement action, to ensure it remains at an appropriate and effective level.

Winning the litter battle…

The development of a Litter Bin Strategy provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate the current litter position within an area and engage with stakeholders – the public often care very deeply about litter issues. This allows a local authority’s approach to litter to be determined and supplemented by best practice, focusing upon the key aspects of education, infrastructure and enforcement within their bespoke context.

Frith Resource Management provide technical services to clients on best practice, public consultation, and implementation of waste and litter bin strategies. For more information see, or email or call 01746 552423.

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