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« Theatre of the absurd? | Main | Shedding light on CRUK's relationship with the Press Association »

Keeping Britain Tidy, part two

Keep Britain Tidy celebrates its 60th anniversary with a Diamond Jubilee Awards lunch in Liverpool on February 12.

On Thursday KBT tweeted a link to the Communities and Local Government Committee session on litter and fly-tipping, which I flagged up last Sunday. (See: Keeping Britain tidy.)

I don't know if KBT actually watched the session because one of the witnesses, Giles Roca, director general of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, wasn't shy in pointing out the absurdity of their current refusal to work with the tobacco industry.

He also had a pop at the Local Government Association (from a position of strength, I might add, because he used to work for Westminster Council):

According to Roca, the tobacco industry wants to help find a solution to the problem of litter but is finding it "very difficult to play a role" because of the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control "which has effectively stopped local authorities doing business with us on matters such as litter".

He said:

Keep Britain Tidy decided in December 2013 that it would no longer have any activity with the tobacco industry whatsoever. KBT will not deal with the tobacco industry. Local government will not deal with the tobacco industry on litter ...

We need leadership at a local level and at the national level. At the minute, Keep Britain Tidy will not talk to us. The board of Keep Britain Tidy passed a resolution in December 2013 that said it would not talk and not engage with the tobacco industry, which quite frankly is just preposterous …

I have written to each member of the LGA executive, which is made up, as you know, of a cross party group of councillors, leaders of councils, inviting them to a meeting on 21 January. Not one of them has accepted that invitation to meet to discuss litter.

An exchange between Roca and Conservative MP Bob Blackman, secretary of the All Party Group on Smoking and Health (run by ASH), was also revealing:

Blackman: Mr Roca, the evidence presented to this Committee, and I think the generally-held view, is that cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item that there is. What is the TMA doing about discussion with local authorities and others to combat this menace?

Roca: We are having very limited discussion with local authorities because of this guidance, which I mentioned earlier, called the Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control. I have written three times to the LGA. I have yet to receive an acknowledgement in regard to an offer to meet them to discuss that. That dates back over the last six months.

The behaviour of Keep Britain Tidy and the Local Government Association is pathetic but will the Communities and Local Government Committee have the bottle to speak out?

I suspect not. Take Bob Blackman. Addressing Roca he asked:

Blackman: How do you react to the view that local authorities have two competing priorities? Their major priority in terms of public health is to reduce the number of people smoking and reduce the consumption of tobacco-related products. Therefore, by making it easier for people to smoke and dispose of their tobacco litter, that overrides the issue of reducing the number of people smoking and the amount they smoke. How do you react to that?

Roca: As you know, Mr Blackman, this came from the WHO, article 5.3 FCTC, which states very clearly this is about undue influence on public health policies not on dealing with litter. Chair, if I may, I can also provide you with an independent legal opinion that we have taken on the local government declaration that says it is very clear there is no legal bar, whatsoever, that stops local authorities dealing and having partnership with the tobacco industry on issues such as litter.

It will be interesting to see how the Committee responds to that.

Without question though the star of the show was American-born author, broadcaster, humorist and anti-litter campaigner David Sedaris.

By his own account Sedaris spends three to eight hours a day picking up litter. Here's an edited version of his (tongue-in-cheek?) exchange with Labour MP Simon Danczuk:

Danczuk: What would you say to people who said it was a middle class problem that particularly affects people like you who live in luxurious places like Horsham [in Sussex]?

Sedaris: I have no regard whatsoever for that argument. It is something that affects everybody. Why should everyone have to live in a teenager’s bedroom? It is bad for your spirit. I don’t care where you live, I don’t care how much money you have ...

Danczuk: Apparently the incidence of litter increases dramatically in deprived areas. Why do you think that is, David?

Sedaris: I don’t know. To tell you the truth, there is a Waitrose not far from me. I found a wine Waitrose bag last year. There is a Tesco Metro, which I think of as a litter supply store, not far away and I find Tesco bags all the time. I don’t find containers that nuts came in. It is fast food. It is crisps. It is candy bars.

Danczuk: Correct me if I am wrong, but you are saying that wealthier people who shop at Waitrose are less likely to drop litter compared to people who have less money who shop at Tescos. Is that right?

Sedaris: If I am looking at the things that I find on the side of the road, I haven’t found any opera tickets, you know ...

Danczuk: What you are saying is that poorer people are more likely to litter, isn’t it? That is what you have said.

Sedaris: I think so. I live outside of Pulborough [near Horsham in Sussex] ... It is beautiful except for all this rubbish. Maybe people are thinking, “I don’t get to live here”, and so maybe they are throwing things out the window as a way of saying, “Screw you people who live here. I know this will upset you" ...

Danczuk: Let me briefly make an observation. I suspect there are very few people living in Horsham, according to the facts that I gave earlier, but if you could stop poorer people passing through Horsham there would be very little litter according to what you have said.

Sedaris: If I look at things that I find, the nearest McDonald’s is 15 miles from where I live. I pick up some McDonald’s things but it is nothing compared to the Walkers’ crisp packets and the Cadbury wrappers and, drink-wise, Red Bull, Lucozade, and then I went online and I looked at a Red Bull commercial, right, and it said, “Red Bull gives you wings”, and it is a guy taking a sip of Red Bull, throwing the can over his shoulders and flying. He is littering right there in the commercial.

I'm not making fun of Sedaris, by the way. Without question his heart is in the right place and I share his abhorrence of the louts who deliberately drop litter, often from moving vehicles.

I admired him too for resisting a second clumsy attempt by Bob Blackman to pin a substantial part of the blame for litter on smokers:

Blackman: Mr Sedaris, you have mentioned about picking up litter and so on and I guess cigarette butts must form a substantial amount of the litter you gather. Is that fair to say?

Sedaris: I feel like they are the least of my problems. Like I said, if you wanted to kick at somebody follow a smoker and that is the easiest person, but I feel like a cigarette butt on the ground is nothing compared to cans and bottles and wrappers.

It's worth reading the full transcript. Or you can view it here.

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Reader Comments (1)

The end game for these public health loons is criminalisation of the tobacco consumer and outlawing the industry so there is no way that Govt and it's paid for front groups, like the once benign and community spirited KBT, will work with "criminals" like us.

This is not about really trying to solve the problem of litter. It's about finding scapegoats and like Sedaris says smokers are easy targets.

Don't let the fascist jobsworths get you. You can order pocket ashtrays online. Buy one. Use it. Govt won't educate you or promote use of these things because it needs the extra tax from you in criminal penalties for dropped cig ends to cover the lost tax from the weak and bullied who have been forced to quit.

You can then do as I do, take your cig ends home, put them onto the garden compost heap and let them biodegrade. My garden's blooming btw, so don't believe the propaganda that cig ends kills trees either.

Public health and it's associated quangos lie almost all of the time with the money they steal from the NHS. Something must be done about that.

Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 13:56 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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