GUEST COLUMN: Litterbugs and busybodies, by Roy Bainton

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ASBOs - remember them?

In terms of anti-social behaviour in Mansfield, I call Sundays and Mondays ASBO days.

Living in the town centre, close to numerous clubs and pubs, we find Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights make central Mansfield a no-go area for grown-ups. It’s also the time when the takeaways do their best business, as bawling, immature feral drunks stagger though their midnight delirium in search of kebabs, pizzas and burgers. Probably due to an intoxicated lack of co-ordination, half of what they buy misses their noisy mouths, and is destined for the pavement, along with the packaging which held it, despite litter bins within sight. And so, on Monday mornings, I have to go out with my bin bag and grabber and collect the cans, bottles, half-eaten pizzas, scattered chips, noodles, fag packets and assorted prawn crackers carelessly thrown down by these anonymous nocturnal inebriates. On the one occasion I did see litter being tossed on my pavement, using the most diplomatic reasoning I could, I challenged the culprits, only to be threatened with maximum potential violence.

It seems that in Mansfield, once you’ve had a few beers, dropping your rubbish is your God-given right, wherever you are. If you’re one of those people who can’t abide this anti-social criminality (there’s still a £2,500 fine for littering), and give up your time to clear up the mess, you’re regarded as some kind of interfering old busybody with nothing better to do. Well, that’s me, guilty as charged, m’lud - I just like living down a clean street. It makes one wonder; when these irresponsible oafs finally blunder into their own homes, do they throw the remains of their meals onto the living room floor, or toss the packaging into their gardens? Or were they brought up in a skip?

Britain is the second dirtiest country in Europe - only Serbia beats us for rubbishy streets. Despite numerous powers and responsibilities for local councils enshrined in legislation, litter remains an issue of public concern, with levels of littering and fly-tipping failing to reduce substantially. Campaigns aimed at changing public behaviour don’t seem to work. Keep Britain Tidy places a £1 billion plus annual price tag on managing litter and its knock-on impacts nationally. The website drove along 1 mile of country lane and found 147 items of litter including 40 drinks cans, 30 plastic bottles, 20 bits of fast food litter, 20 crisp packets, 20 chocolate bar wrappers, ten Cigarette packets, six Carrier bags and one hub cap (there’s always a hub cap). So it is hardly surprising that this ‘let somebody else clear it up’ mentality reaches its pinnacle with fly tipping, perhaps the most disgusting offence of them all.

If you’ve any pride in your civic environment, the only answer is to be a busybody. Pick it up, bag it, bin it. But whatever you do, don’t challenge the perpetrators - you too could end up on the pavement.