Looking into litter in the Lake District 

Why do people litter and what can we do about it? These are the million dollar questions that are not easy to answer. That’s why we’re working with Keep Britain Tidy to tackle the source of the problem rather than picking up after people. 

Many people will remember the scenes of litter carelessly strewn across the Lake District last the summer, and the toll taken on the British countryside from extra numbers of visitors after the worldwide pandemic curtailed holidays abroad and many other summer activities.

Friends of the Lake District held a socially-distanced Great Cumbria Litter Pick in August 2019, in which volunteers took part in a big clean up right across the county, while staff from local councils, the Lake District National Park and National Trust Rangers and many other groups and individuals spent vast amounts of time and money cleaning up after the litterers.

This situation led us to thinking that people are looking at the problem from the wrong end. By clearing up after people who drop litter we are not actually addressing the problem, only tidying up after it.  Litter picking is an extra strain on the resources of already stretched councils and landowners and unless something is done to prevent littering taking place, the situation will just continue. 

We want to find out why people are dropping litter in the first place, and what can be done to persuade people not to do it.

Friends of the Lake District is currently working with Keep Britain Tidy to look at why people are littering and leaving waste behind, and to try and understand the triggers to littering and barriers to responsible waste disposal in the National Park.  We hope to be able to use the insights from this research to recommend targeted interventions and activity to change visitor behaviour and prevent littering from occurring across the National Park in future.

Litter Lockdown Survey 

Our experiences here in Cumbria tie in with a national ‘Litter in Lockdown’ survey that CPRE and YouGov, published recently, showing that ‘Over a third of adults in England (38%) have seen more litter near to where they live since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and over three quarters (76%) have noticed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) being littered, according to a new YouGov poll, commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity.’

The poll has also revealed stark changes in where the public is spending their time in light of coronavirus-related regulations and the ‘Litter in lockdown’ study shows that where people go, litter follows. These include:

  • One in three adults (34%) reported spending more time in the countryside since the start of lockdown;
  • One in three adults (32%) have spent more time in parks and this rises to 44% for those who have children under the age of 4; and
  • Three quarters of the public (75%) have spent less time in inner city high streets and 69% have spent less time in local high streets showing a major shift in where people spend their time."

Litter is a very avoidable blight that currently scars our countryside. As more people than ever before venture into their local green space or countryside, it's crucial that the government redoubles its efforts to tackle litter and stops it pilling up in our beautiful countryside. Friends of the Lake District, which represents CPRE in Cumbria, joins CPRE in calling for the Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles as a solution to some of the littering.

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