Litter is an issue that gives rise to considerable annoyance amongst the public, with research for Defra showing it to be the most significant factor affecting residents’ perceptions of their neighbourhood.
In fact, the importance of litter goes well beyond issues of nuisance and visual disamenity. Eunomia’s research shows that the indirect costs of litter – related to issues such as crime and poor mental health – are even greater.
Accordingly local authorities strive to maintain a high standard of street cleansing. However, even while residents may report a high ‘willingness to pay’ for reduced levels of litter, in the context of reducing budgets it is important that councils look closely at all opportunities to make savings in, and improve the performance of, their streets teams.
A number of Eunomia’s staff have direct practical experience of running street cleansing services, and we have advised several authorities regarding operational changes to maintain or improve performance while delivering meaningful savings.
We have a detailed understanding of the factors, including seasonal and weather-related, that result in different levels of litter arisings, and have developed innovative tools to enable us to advise on appropriate levels of resourcing. We have undertaken detailed activity sampling work to assess the efficiency of streets teams, helping us to advise on where operational improvements can be made.
Preventing litter arising in the first place is much more effective, and indeed cost-effective, than seeking to pick up all that is dropped, and Eunomia is leading research and policy development in this area. Of increasing importance is the issue of marine litter, the majority of which is land-based in origin. Understanding the sources, and pathways by which litter reaches the aquatic environment, and importantly the effectiveness of specific litter-prevention interventions is an active area of research for Eunomia.