Ah, bless them!

Like a lot of people, I get furious about litter thrown from cars.

Verges throughout much of our beautiful district are often peppered with assorted rubbish tossed from vehicles. After a clean-up by litter pickers, it’s only minutes before it starts to reappear.

And it’s not just deeply ugly; litter is disastrous for nature. A crisp packet takes 80 years to decompose, releasing toxins into the earth in the process.

So yes, it makes me angry. But I’ve got a trick, which will hopefully slow down the process of me becoming a bitter and twisted old man. It might sound a bit weird, but stay with me:

You find a Coke bottle in the grass. As you pick it up, instead of launching into a stream of invective about the selfish, brainless, etc. you smile fondly, as if you’re thinking of your dearest relative.

Then, in a tone of voice as if a toddler you love has accidentally spilt something, you say (with a little ‘tut’ beforehand) “Ah bless them!”

It’s so completely the opposite of my real feelings that it makes me laugh. The rage evaporates, and I can move on to the next bag, bottle or coffee cup without having increased my blood pressure.

But just staying with the rage for a moment… I mean what is going on in someone’s head when they toss rubbish out of a vehicle?!

Apparently, the litter pest simply doesn’t care about the place where they are, when they throw the litter: “It’s just a road, there’s litter there already, someone else will pick it up, and anyway, I’m driving away.”

But whatever the thought process – the question is, what can we do about it?

It doesn’t solve the problem, but firstly, we can pick up the litter. There are hundreds of heroic volunteer litter pickers throughout the district, doing what they can. The council’s contractors too, do great, and often dangerous work, clearing litter from verges where possible.

But however important, litter picking is only really dealing with the symptoms, not the cause. Ultimately we need the litter pests to realise that it’s not OK to litter.

Our Street Wardens run a brilliant Junior Warden programme with school children. Children aren’t the culprits, but what they learn at these sessions can have an immediate knock-on effect on their parents, and make the children less likely to throw litter themselves.

Enforcement is also vital. The council can now issue Penalty Notices. Being caught tossing a can out of a car comes with a £50 minimum fine.

Over the last year our Street Wardens have issued 17 Fixed Penalty Notices for fly-tipping. That’s at least a £200 fine every time. Last year the team prosecuted a fly-tipper who had to pay more than £7,700 in total.

And you can help. If you’ve got dashcam evidence of litter being thrown from a car, or to report littering or fly-tipping please email: [email protected]

But remember, to stay sane it’s: Ah, bless them!