Grant Woodward: Throwaway comments can cut littering

AS adverts in the local classifieds go, it's an absolute belter.

Litter on Albion Street in Leeds.

“Free sterilisation for anyone who throws their rubbish out of their car windows whilst parked at Tregea Hill, Portreath,” it reads. “Contact your GP and do your bit for society.”

It may have appeared in a paper down in Cornwall, but believe me, the sentiment belongs in Yorkshire too.

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Surely we were supposed to have moved past the stage where we chuck our rubbish on the floor? We no longer live in grubby, smog-ridden towns and cities. And besides, I’ll bet there was a heck of a lot less litter blowing around the streets back then anyway.

But people still do it. Still think nothing of unwrapping a chocolate bar, emptying a crisp packet or digging an old receipt out of their pocket and then lobbing it wherever they fancy.

We live near a couple of schools and as a result get some habitual offenders passing our front door.

And there’s one who is driving me up the proverbial wall. Every evening in term time, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be two bright orange chocolate bar wrappers scattered across the pavement.

One is left at the top of the street where they’ve just finished their first bar and the second about 50 yards further down where it’s been polished off. Clearly they can’t bolt these after-school treats down fast enough.

Even my children have spotted the pattern – and loyally tut along with their dad as I pick them up and deposit them in our bin.

I keep threatening that one of these days I’ll stand guard outside the shop and wait for the sweet-toothed litterbug responsible to emerge and then collar them as they drop the first one as they turn into our road.

But my wife tells me the parents would probably report me – and besides, chances are they wouldn’t even think their little angel had done anything wrong.

Because I’ve seen mums and dads not even bat so much as an eyelid when their child has thrown their wrapper on the ground or over the nearest hedge or fence.

And I’ve spotted them doing it too – as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. What kids see grown-ups do, they copy. And what chance do they have anyway when adults are dumping rubbish as if their lives depended on it?

In 2012-13 Leeds City Council spent a little over £215,000 cleaning up after fly-tippers. In 2014-15 that figure had jumped to just under £750,000.

As well as spoiling the city we live in, these lowlifes are costing us huge sums of money. It’s why Leeds council has just announced that anyone caught flagrantly in the act will cop an on-the-spot fine of £300.

It’s absolutely the right thing to do. But the trouble is catching them in the first place.

However, something has to be done. And perhaps it’s now time we all stuck our heads above the parapet.

If their own parents aren’t capable of teaching them right from wrong then maybe it’s up to the rest of us to step in and tell them what’s what when we see a youngster dropping litter.

Because ultimately, I’m pretty sure they know instinctively that what they’re doing is wrong, even if their mums and dads have never picked them up over it. They’re just too lazy to find a bin or think that chucking rubbish on the floor 
makes them look cool in front of their mates.

Not so long ago my wife and I were walking down the road when we saw a group of teenagers ahead of us drop a drink bottle on the ground.

“Excuse me,” called my wife to the guilty party, pointing at the offending item. “I think that you’ve dropped something.”

It could have gone two ways. But to my surprise the lad smiled and walked over to retrieve his bottle, mumbled a sheepish “sorry” and then deposited it in a bin further up the street.

So perhaps it’s not too late to educate young minds – and who knows, maybe together we can change some older ones too.