I am a firm believer that where there is a will there is a way. So the first question we have to ask as a society is: "Do we have the will to take on littering?" It is costing nearly £30m of ratepayers' money every year.
ith 45% of the population openly admitting to littering we have quite a task, but it is not one that can be shirked, for to avoid tackling this head-on is to give up on our beautiful streets, parks and beaches, on our quality of life, and, fundamentally, on the people of Northern Ireland.
As we have seen from David Attenborough, littered single use plastic has a disproportionately negative impact not only on our own quality of life, but also on the very survival of marine animals often many miles from the point of origin.
Staying on the subject of plastic, we now find microplastics in the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the food we eat. Our litter is literally coming back haunt us.
This pollution, largely a result of our consumption habits, is inextricably linked to biodiversity loss and climate breakdown. Changing behaviour on littering and dog fouling is a huge and complex issue.
We certainly don't fine nearly enough people to act as an effective deterrent at present. However, this issue will not be solved by any single intervention.
The war on litter must include education and awareness raising, media campaigns, practical community involvement, as well as, for those who don't heed any of these, enforcement.
Legislation to drive down packaging and ensure companies start taking their own responsibilities seriously is also essential.
To pull this all together and to be able to measure progress is really crying out for a litter strategy.
Numbers of fixed penalty notices issued have largely remained static over the years.
Some things have changed, though. In recent years the Live Here Love Here cross-sectoral collaboration has engaged huge numbers of volunteers in clean-ups, has given out over £1m in small grants to stimulate local community ownership, and has delivered consistent media campaigns, and it is now recognised by a majority of the population.
In 2020 we have seen people working together to slow the spread of a virus. Looking out for one another, the best of Northern Ireland was seen across our communities.
Covid-19 is one of many challenges that we as a society face. Climate change and how we look after our environment is another one.
Changing behaviours and doing things differently can make a real difference.
Reducing our litter and being more responsible with how we dispose of our waste, the benefits for our environment will be substantial.
All of us need to work and change together.
Ian Humphreys is chief executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful