Britain's Filthy Streets - Tonight

Experts say educating future generations about the impact of litter is vital.

In tonight’s episode, reporter Fiona Foster travels around the UK to investigate our filthy streets. From Glasgow, where residents are worried about being embarrassed by litter across the city when world leaders visit for the 26th UN Climate change conference this November- to Margate, Kent, where an influx of staycationers left a mountain of rubbish as they packed the blue flag beaches there last year. 

Glasgow resident Hamish Docherty is concerned about levels of litter in the city

In Glasgow, Fiona speaks to two cleansing staff working for the city council, who claim that Council cuts to their workforce have rendered their job impossible.

And she also speaks to Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful, who says that the charity, which analyses the level of litter in Scotland each year, has detected a worrying decline in environmental quality since 2013.

Glasgow City Council told us that the city will be “in good shape” for COP26, and while the pandemic has been a challenge, street cleansing is back to full capacity. They say they spend more than any other Scottish council on street cleaning, and they’ve invested £3m in new bins, and are recruiting new staff.

Meanwhile in Margate, Fiona spoke to Mike Humber, from Thanet Council, who says they’re doing their utmost to prepare for a tidal wave of visitors this year - and the rubbish they’ll generate - with up to 50 tonnes of litter a day being cleaned from the sands by the council.

Litter poses a serious threat to wildlife

Every day, it’s estimated that over two million pieces of litter are dropped in the UK - and there’s evidence that the country’s litter problem is getting worse. Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive for Keep Britain Tidy, tells Tonight:

In our own special survey, Tonight has spoken to 55 litter picking groups across the UK. With rubbish on the streets, in the parks, and in our rivers, these volunteer litter picking groups have taken it upon themselves to clean up their local areas. 

In total, the 55 groups told us they filled over 1200 bags of litter just last month. The most common items were cans, plastic bottles, and food wrapping. They picked up over 1000 dog poo bags. And there’s one thing every single group found - disposable face masks.

All 55 of the volunteer groups Tonight spoke to recorded discarded face masks on their litter picks

And reporter Fiona Foster looks at the possible solutions to our litter problem - including educating future generations about the impact of rubbish. 

On the Thames, environmental charity Hubbub runs plastic fishing trips to try and clean up the waste and also inform along the way. Fiona speaks to the charity’s latest recruits - six children from a local school.

Are you inspired to start tackling our litter problem? Maybe take a leaf from Jack Colmer’s book - who designed his own bin bag dispenser… 

'Britain's Filthy Streets' with reporter Fiona Foster is on ITV Thursday 13th May at 7:30pm.

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