Can Packaging Manufacturers Really Solve the Litter Problem?

Despite all of the clean ups, education programmes, and crackdowns, litter is still a huge problem, and it costs local authorities around £1 billion per year to clean it up.

The main sources of litter are chewing gum and cigarette butts, and packaging plays its part too. Go to any public place and you’re likely to see fast food wrappers, crisp packets, and sweet wrappers strewn on the ground.

So how can we solve the litter problem?

  • Behaviour change is crucial, and this requires education around litter and enforcement activity, like fixed penalties for littering.
  • Brands could do more in the way of encouraging their customers to do the right thing by allocating more of their marketing budgets to consumer education around litter. Some big brands are well-known for playing their part. Every McDonalds restaurant has a policy of carrying out litter patrols around the area they’re in, and Coca Cola works to encourage recycling at festivals and other big events.
  • Local authorities also play a part and there are examples of some really great work to tackle litter. The Greater London Authority has been giving out £1,000 grants to anti-litter projects and many councils, including Maidstone in Kent have cracked down on litter and have been handing out fines likes there’s no tomorrow.
  • And as far as packaging manufacturers go, what is their role? They aren’t really in direct contact with customers so they have limited influence on behaviour, but manufacturers could show their support for clean up events, such as those run by McDonalds. And of course, they could rethink the design of their packaging and the materials they use; think reusable coffee cups, reducing the use of single-use plastic, reducing the size and weight of packaging, and doing away with hard to recycle materials such as polystyrene.

Tackling litter is everyone’s business

If you’re one of the people who drops litter, start being responsible. Lose the attitude that ‘someone else will pick it up.’ Always recycle. Use recycled and recyclable materials. Buy goods with less packaging. It’s not hard. Everyone has the right to live and work in areas that are clean and safe, and keeping them this way is everyone’s business.