With fewer places to go, this lockdown period has been a fantastic opportunity to clear out old clothes and bits and bobs that are collecting dust on the shelves and in the back of cupboards. But what is the most eco-friendly way of disposing of these items?

Modern day society has developed to encourage recycling and reusing in our daily life. For example, the brown bin is for garden waste, the blue bin for recycling and the green bin for non-recycling. 

Although, the more care-free among us have developed a sense of self entitlement and leave their bags carelessly on the road, without regard for anyone else. This is simply done to offload the responsibility of their waste, in the hope that the owners of neighbouring shops will have to deal with the garbage.

I went on a walk along Twickenham high street, where I witnessed piles of bin bags on the ground, scattered at different points along the pavement.   

Rubbish seems to breed rubbish. When one person decides to leave their bin bag, others will take that as affirmation that this is acceptable practice. Where there is one bin bag, there will be ten. The net result is that the local authority, who is responsible for clearing waste from public land such as Twickenham high street, is left with piles of rubbish to clear.

Fly-tipping is the illegal disposal of rubbish, and is not only harmful for the environment, but also expensive for councils to deal with, and a serious criminal offence. According to the gov.uk website, “Anyone caught illegally dumping waste could face fines up to £400.”

The National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group website estimates that fly-tipping costs the public sector over £36 million a year and private landowners £50-150 million or more a year in clean-up and disposal costs alone. This is an extortionate price for piles of litter, which could easily be avoided by people thinking about the negative externalities of their actions.

There are ways of dealing with fly-tipping, such as reporting to response services, which are ultimately funded by the taxpayer, you and me. Apart from the financial problems associated with litter, there is also a health risk. Vermin love rubbish, and bags of clothes dumped outside a charity shop provide nice warm places for rats and fleas. 

If you happen to witness what I encountered on my walk, you can report it to the local authority. Richmond Council encourages people to report fly tipping on public land as soon as possible (at richmond.gov.uk), with a request that if you see a fly-tip in progress, you should call the police on 999.

It is crucial that we attempt to prevent fly-tipping in every way we can, as it plagues our environmental quality, is a threat to humans and wildlife, a source of pollution, and ruins our enjoyment of towns and countryside. Fly-tipping also undermines the good work carried out by local authorities and legal waste operators.