Litter is always caused by people.
It is waste in the wrong place which ruins the appearance of our towns and countryside. Litter has many forms and many sources, from a sweet wrapper thrown on the street to a dumped bag of rubbish or a fly-tipped load of demolition rubble. Local Authorities spend millions of euro every year on cleaning the streets in Ireland and trying to prevent people from dumping their waste illegally – an enormous amount of money that could be spent on better things!
Litter such as broken bottles and cans left lying around public areas can easily result in an injury, while food litter can attract rats and flies, which spread disease. Litter can also be lethal to wildlife, from discarded fishing lines that can maim and kill water birds, to plastic bags mistaken for food and ingested by animals such as cows, sheep, horses and some marine animals.
Most schools have a litter problem to some degree. The first challenge on the way to becoming a Green-School is to reduce the litter in the school grounds permanently!
There are four stages to tackling litter:
1. Analyse the Problem
Before you even start to think about the solution you need to find out more about the problem. Carry out a litter survey in and around the school to find out how big your litter problem is and who or what causes it. Does the problem vary depending on the time of week / year? Perhaps a questionnaire in relation to litter could also be carried out. It would be good to talk to the caretaker and/or cleaners as well!
2. Devise an Action Plan
Once you understand the problem you have to think of ways to solve it. Try to involve as many people as possible. From that brainstorming list work out the sensible ideas. Should awareness of litter and its problems be increased somehow? Are more bins required around the school? Or should bins just be replaced more strategically? Your action plan should say what your targets are and how you are going to achieve them.
3. Measuring success
You must plan from the beginning how you will measure the success of your anti-litter action plan. This should include some form of regular monitoring, which will be detailed in your action plan (i.e. how/when/who will carry it out). Make sure to display the details and results of your monitoring. You cannot manage what you do not measure!
The most difficult thing is keeping the litter away permanently. You will know from your regular monitoring if and when litter is again becoming a problem. As time goes on you may need to adjust your action plan to help maintain the success of your litter policy.