£34m per year to keep Northern Ireland towns tidy... this has to change
For many years Tidy Northern Ireland has provided councils with intelligence on where and what the local environmental issues are, helping them formulate appropriate solutions.
Hence, councils have become adept at cleaning up after people but our streets only look as good as they do because dedicated council staff are sweeping up after litter louts well before most people are awake.
Maintaining these standards is expensive with the cost of street cleansing rising 20% between 2009 and 2010, to a massive £34m a year.
That's £100,000 every day, or £50 for every rate payer. It is shocking and cannot go on.
The only real answer is for us all to change our ways and start using bins, taking litter home and clearing up after our dogs.
To not change is to ensure Northern Ireland fails.
Fails to attract inward investment - it is a fact that businesses do not want to invest in a dirty country; fails to attract tourists, or at least entice them or their friends back after seeing the litter, graffiti and fly-posting; and fails to prosper.
So, it is time for change.
It's no longer sufficient to tinker at the edges of this problem.
Others realised this decades ago, for example in Texas, where a 25-year-old campaign has reduced visible litter by 72% and saved an average $5m a year in clean up costs.
Of course we need to keep cleaning up after people, but prevention is better than cure and media campaigns, local clean-ups, education and, for those who will not listen to any of that, fines and prosecutions, all have their place.
Tidy NI welcomes the forthcoming legislation which raises the level of fines and give councils stronger powers. Yet enforcement is not the only answer. We also need to take some personal responsibility.
The Big Spring Clean, which has been strongly backed by the Belfast Telegraph, has demonstrated the public's clear backing for this local action.
If we work together we can beat this problem, just as we have made great strides with drink-driving, wearing seat-belts and smoking in public places.
The simple truth is that if enough of us want to live in a cleaner Northern Ireland then we can make it happen. My message is simple: Don't rubbish Northern Ireland.