“People who throw litter from cars? Lock ‘em up, we say” Calls for tough penalties

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Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians unite in call for tougher penalties

At last, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have got behind an issue that they can all agree on, in a call for tougher penalties against people who throw litter from vehicles.

A national waste and recycling company has found the people are fed up with rubbish left behind by drivers at beauty spots, by the side of the road, and even thrown out of the window at speed.

According to Waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk, many people surveyed thought that prison sentences and unlimited fines might be required for repeat offenders, these being the same sort of penalties reserved for persistent fly-tippers.

“The battle for road space has long been fought between pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But if there’s one issue that brings them all together, it’s inconsiderate road users.

“And wanton littering is as inconsiderate as it gets”.

BusinessWaste.co.uk asked hundreds of British road users about roadside littering, and an astonishing 97% called for tougher penalties for offenders.

People called for:
• Larger fines (90%)
• Community payback that involves litter picking (78%)
• Points on driving licences (72%)
• The threat of prison terms for repeat offenders (36%)

The “big stick” of prison is one supported across the board, with over one-third of road users thinking it appropriate for those who don’t learn their lesson.

“Is loss of liberty an appropriate punishment for littering?” BusinessWaste.co.uk’s Mark Hall asks. “When you take into account the risk that workers face when litter-picking at the side of a busy dual carriageway, then there is a very good case for repeat offenders.

“People have died doing this job in the past, and will continue to do so, even with the best risk management. And that’s all because of thoughtless road users who can’t be bothered to take their rubbish home.”

That’s a view echoed by road users surveyed by BusinessWaste.co.uk:

• Dave, Birmingham: “What really grinds my gears are people who throw their lit cigarettes out of their window. There’s nothing more distracting on a motorbike than a fireball heading straight toward your face.”

• Michael, London: “I once saw [C-List reality show celebrity] draw up at a set of traffic lights, open the car door, leave a fried chicken bucket at the kerb, and drive off. I see them on TV every now and then and think ‘I saw what you did’. Disgusting.”

• Sean, Edinburgh: “Cycling along, minding my own business, and I’ve been hit by a fizzy pop bottle thrown out of a car window, right on the side of the head. People who throw litter from cars? Lock ‘em up, I say.”

• Paula, Hampshire: “You might think it’s only one sweet wrapper or one cigarette butt or paper coffee cup, but have you ever slowed down enough to see a roadside verge? Call me a bleeding-heart liberal, but it’s a national disgrace.”

BusinessWaste.co.uk’s Mark Hall: “Paula’s right. Our grass verges are a disgrace, and even with diligent council and Highways Agency litter picking they’re soon trashed again within weeks.

“The only way we’re going to hammer this message home is to make littering as unacceptable as –say – drink-driving and using a phone at the wheel.”

While BusinessWaste.co.uk welcomes the government consultation on penalties for litter and other environmental offences, it says that the amount of litter strewn across the UK’s 245,000 miles of roads would be the equivalent of a small mountain if all gathered into one place.

“Millions of cigarette ends on their own add up to a real pollution nightmare,” says Hall, “And that’s before they’ve set fire to a grass verge or burned a passer-by.”

Hall’s advice to road users is the same as it’s ever been: “Take it home with you. You’ve got a bin at home – use that.”

But, unfortunately, it’s a message that just doesn’t get through to the thousands who litter our roadsides.

“It’s time to get tough,” says Hall, “This has gone on long enough.”

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