Litter

On the BBC's Panorama programme this week, author Bill Bryson railed against the scourge of litter in our country.  As President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, he's spearheading their "stop the drop" campaign.

I'm right behind him.  I spent a morning last week performing the nauseatingly unpleasant task of scraping chewing gum off my shoe.

People stick their gum under seats and tables on trains, and drop it onto the streets, where local authorities spend £150 million a year trying to remove it.

Singapore's streets are spotless - although their solution, banning gum itself for a time, and a £400 fine and a community work order for littering, would clearly be considered a bit strong in our country, where we give a fine or community sentence for burglars and knife criminals.

Bryson visited Ray Mallon, the Mayor of Middlesbrough who is driving a campaign literally to clean up his town.
 
I think Mallon is a breath of fresh air.  A former local police commander, nick-named "Robocop", his "zero tolerance" approach has cracked down on crime and improved the quality of life for local people.

I wade through litter in London during the week, including on the doorstep of the Commons, and I see rubbish despoiling our country lanes in West Sussex at the weekend.

It costs taxpayers in excess of half a billion pounds annually to clear the streets of England - the cost of abandoning the fuel tax rise - and that doesn't include parks or other public spaces.

I was brought up so that I couldn't make myself throw rubbish out of my car window if I wanted to - but half of the public admit to doing it.

There's now five times more litter dropped in our country than there was in the 1960s.  England was once called a green and pleasant land.  Now Bryson entitles his film "Notes from a Dirty Island".  It's shameful that he's right.

Michelle Taylor