Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Time to get tough on blight of litter

In Northern Ireland we are rightly proud of what is largely a green and pleasant land with scenery to rival that of many other countries. But it is a land which is being despoiled by the actions of litter louts.

A survey by Tidy NI has found that around 14% of streets fail a basic cleanliness test and that in spite of councils spending a massive £34m a year trying to maintain standards.

At any time - never mind these days of austerity - that is money which could be better spent than cleaning up after those who carelessly throw away the carry-out bags, take-away wrappers, drink tins and bottles and all the other assorted debris which foul the streets and by-ways of the province.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood has decided that enough is enough and is to introduce new legislation introducing spot fines for litter-bugs, new powers for councils to make people clean up their own property and increasing the anti-litter education drive in our schools.

While young people are most likely to heed advice on keeping the streets clean, it is clear that enforcement is required alongside education. Hitting the litter louts in their pocket should make them take the issue seriously.

This newspaper has a strong record in supporting environmental protection through our involvement in initiatives such as the Big Spring Clean and we have no hesitation in backing Mr Attwood's move towards zero tolerance on litter.

As the Minister pointed out keeping Northern Ireland tidy is about quality of life.

Too many people casually throw their litter away, not through any malevolence but simply without thinking about the impact of their actions.

Witness the state of the streets after a major outdoor event and see just what that attitude, multiplied hundreds of time, can lead to.

The threat of being fined should make those who discard their litter carelessly think again and, ultimately, that would be good for all of us.

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