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Reminding York its a Crime Not To Care

Last week our Deputy CEO Richard McIllwain joined York Council to launch our successful fly-tipping campaign in the city. Here he shares his experiences of the day and his admiration for the city's staff. 

“Last year York Council recorded over 1,500 incidents of fly-tipping, costing many thousands of pounds to clear up. All paid for by York Council tax payers.

“If anything makes my blood boil its fly-tipping. So I was delighted to help York Council launch Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘Crime Not To Care’ campaign in the centre of the historic city, making them one of nearly 40 local authorities who have adopted our campaign.

“Together with neighbourhood service staff and Councillors Andrew Waller and Jenny Brooks, we stood on central York’s Parliament Street, in front of a pile of actual fly-tipped waste recovered by the council. The quantity represents the waste tipped in a typical hour in York and was made up of a range of typical household items - a fridge freezer, clothing, black bagged waste, a microwave, kids toys.

#CrimeNotToCare is focused on helping the public understand that they have a legal responsibility when handing over waste to another person (classically the ‘man with a van’) – namely to ask to see a waste carrier’s licence and make a note of the number. Every legitimate waste business should be able to show you one. Failure to undertake this simple task can land the householder with a fine and a criminal record – if the waste is fly-tipped and it is traced back to them.

“Given that around 66% of all fly-tipping incidents contain rubbish from households, if people just stop giving waste to fly-tippers then we can cut off the supply at source and put them out of business.

“Anyway, while the Neighbourhood team got busy speaking to passers-by about the campaign, I got a tour of the city centre from Neighbourhood Service Officer Sam Watling, who is clearly passionate about his job, a lively communicator and a great advert for York Council’s frontline services.

“So, we set off on the ‘alternative’ tourist trail of back alleys, bins and byways….

“As a total litter and waste nerd, I was fascinated by the work that Sam and the team undertake. A lot of great work has clearly been done getting city centre businesses to manage their waste better. Church Lane was a classic example, where a street that was previously strewn with bins and overflowing rubbish was now clean and clear.

“Although, as Sam pointed out, there is still work to do - as the next location ably demonstrated. We explored the city centre bins and I’m endlessly fascinated by the human behaviour that avoids using a bin, even when it’s right next to someone! Sam was on duty the whole time, even stopping to explore the contents of a rogue bin bag for evidence.

“Beyond waste and litter, the Neighbourhood team also manage rough sleepers, anti-social behaviour and a myriad of other ‘street’ issues. However, what came through strongly was the proactive approach of the council to management of the street scene – taking a fair and proportionate response to issues and seeking collaboration with residents and business owners in finding positive solutions to the many competing issues faced.

“My hat goes off to them all. And we must all remember that people are often all too quick to blame councils for the rubbish and litter on our streets – when actually the real solution lies with us, all of us. If only the ‘Duty of Care’ was implicit in all of us, and we disposed of our litter and waste correctly, then Council teams could get on with other valuable work to make our town and cities attractive, vibrant places to live and work.

Here at Keep Britain Tidy we will of course continue to campaign, educate and lobby for real change until littering and fly-tipping are things of the past.

“PS. A shout out to Mr Paul Willey (MBE no less). Sam tells me he looks after the street sweeping team, working above and beyond into the early hours to identify the areas that have been left strewn in litter and making sure sweeper teams get to them before dawn.

All I can say is thank goodness for people like Paul, Sam and the team.

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