Street Litter and Packaging

In the early 20th century, conservation groups became increasingly concerned with rising levels of litter. With improvements in transport, more people were taking day-trips, picnicking and hiking. Countryside preservationists feared the littering of City parks as well as beauty spots. Local branches of the Women's Institute began to support anti-litter initiatives, but the campaigns had little success.

National anti-litter campaigns emerged for the first time during the Festival of Britain in 1951, when the phrase 'Keep Britain Tidy' was adopted. The Keep Britain Tidy Group was formed in 1954, and worked closely with central government.

The group carried out many publicity stunts to support its campaign. In Romford, in the London borough of Havering, attractive young women were employed as 'litter lovelies' to clean up litter and inspire local men into cleaner habits. However, litter has remained a problem. In 1988, the Royal Fine Arts Commission named litter a priority in its proposal A New Look for London.

At the end of the 20th century, Londoners were producing around 17 million tonnes of waste every year. Over 4 million tonnes of this was municipal waste, such as household rubbish and street litter. This would fill the Canary Wharf tower every 8 days. Over 70% of this waste is sent to landfill sites, 20% is burned and 9% is recycled.

Each year 2,700 tonnes of smoking-related litter is deposited on London's streets. In the late 1980s, 90 tonnes of litter was dropped every day on the streets of the borough of Westminster. On Oxford Street alone, 450 bins are emptied a minimum of five times a day.

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