December 2014

Exploring the Indirect Costs of Litter in England

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Posted in | | by Dr Chris Sherrington

Eunomia was engaged by Keep Britain Tidy to explore the indirect costs of litter in England, in a widely publicised report.

We distinguish between the direct costs of litter, which are the costs to local authorities and other duty bodies of engaging in the clean-up of litter and clearance of flytipping, including additional treatment/disposal of the associated waste; and the indirect costs, which are those visited on other actors in the economy (and on nature and wildlife).

Some indirect costs are already ‘internalised’ within market transactions, for example, the cost of dealing with injuries to the public caused by litter, or of repairing damage to vehicles from accidents caused by litter. Others are not currently internalised, and are referred to as ‘externalities’. Examples include the sense of ‘welfare loss’ associated with the visual disamenity of a park being strewn with litter.

The three largest internalised costs of litter in England were found to be:

  • Property values (As an illustration, if 1% of England’s housing stock were devalued by 2.7% due to litter this would equate to a loss in value of just under £1 billion)
  • Mental health (approximately £526 million); and
  • Crime (up to £348 million).

These internalised costs are considerably lower than the estimates of the key external costs, which are:

  • Local disamenity (£702 million – £7.6 billion); and
  • Beach litter disamenity (£521 million – £1.1 billion).

However, there are some categories where the indicative scale of the costs, and indeed the range in the costs identified, suggests that an improved understanding is required.

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