Keep Britain Tidy has today published a report, written by Eunomia, exploring the indirect costs of litter in England.
Beyond the direct costs to local authorities of cleaning up litter, the existence of litter can lead to a range of indirect costs that fall upon the wider public. These include costs associated with crime, mental health and a reduction in property values.
The report identified strong indications of a link between litter and crime, with evidence from the United States and the Netherlands showing that litter appeared to be a causal factor in crime. The authors estimate that the cost of crime that could be attributed to litter in England might be over £300 million per annum.
The report also explored the relationship between a littered environment and the mental health and wellbeing of local residents, providing an indicative estimate of the related costs that could be attributed to a littered environment at over £500 million per annum.
The authors also reviewed research on residents’ ‘willingness-to-pay’, in terms of an increase in council tax, for a number of local environmental factors, including litter. The highest stated willingness to pay was for a reduction in litter, which, depending upon the level of improvement achieved, could be more than £7bn per annum.
Project Director, Dr Chris Sherrington said:
“This finding relating to ‘willingness to pay’ effectively represents the ‘welfare gain’ that would be achieved if our local environments became less littered. It doesn’t, however, mean that we should spend £7bn more on picking up litter. At a time when local authority finances are hugely stretched, we need to consider more cost-effective, and arguably fairer, ways to prevent litter in the first place.”