Litter message getting through to smokers

Published: Monday 29th July 13

The council’s campaign to persuade smokers to quit their habit of dropping cigarette butts on pavements outside rail and tube stations may be paying dividends after a dramatic fall in the number of people caught breaking litter laws near Tooting Bec station.

The litter team at an earlier roadshow in Clapham JunctionOnly two people were collared when the council's waste enforcement team staged its latest anti-litter roadshow at the station.

The team has been regularly visiting stations in the borough and bringing with them a large perspex dustbin that contains all the waste picked up from surrounding streets that day - to highlight to local people the harmful impact of litter on local neighbourhoods and the cost of clearing it up. They are pictured here at an earlier roadshow at Clapham Junction station.

Smoking related debris now accounts for 90 per cent of the litter on Wandsworth's streets and picking this up and keeping the borough's streets clean and tidy is currently costing local council taxpayers just under £4m a year.

In previous roadshows as many as 22 people have been caught throwing butts and cigarette packets on the ground, but even though Tooting Bec station is one of the borough's busiest - only two people were guilty this time. When the last operation was carried out at this station 12 people were caught.

Environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "It is of course far too early to draw any firm conclusions about the effectiveness of the campaign, and we certainly mustn't take anything for granted, but these latest results are positive and encouraging.

"The council is doing a pretty good job of keeping the borough's streets clean and tidy. Detailed surveys have shown that 96 per cent of our streets meet rigorous standards of cleanliness, while complaints are currently running at less than one a day. This is an exceptional performance in an inner city borough the size of Wandsworth.

"However, we fully recognise that one small piece of litter on an otherwise spotless pavement can stick out like a sore thumb, which is why we operate a zero tolerance policy and take action against those who drop litter, including smokers who throw cigarette debris on the ground  .

"The important message we are trying to get across to everyone is that apart from keeping the borough looking good, for every extra piece of litter that's properly put away in a dustbin there is a potential saving to council tax payers too. We are spending around £4m a year on street cleaning and if we can reduce litter levels, we can make savings and pass them back to local taxpayers."

People caught dropping litter in the street face an £80 fixed penalty notice. Those who refuse to pay will be summonsed to appear in front of magistrates who could impose fines of up to £2,500.  Between April and the end of June this year 217 of these on-the-spot-fines were handed out to litterbugs.

Over the course of the same three month period, the council received 57 street cleaning complaints - less than five a week.

The council is also working closely with local businesses to keep town centre streets clean.

By law businesses must have a contract with a licensed contractor for the removal and disposal of their commercial waste. They must also keep records and receipts to prove they have complied with these rules. It is unlawful for them to use taxpayer-funded refuse collection services.

Shops and businesses have been allotted specific time bands when they are permitted to leave their waste out for collection by their contractors. This is designed to stop pavements being cluttered with unsightly binbags or refuse containers. Businesses who flout these time band rules and leave their waste on the highway for unreasonable lengths of time face being penalised.   

If people see rubbish being dumped or flytipped, or to find out your responsibilities as a business owner, visit

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Recent comments

does this mean the former bus conductor and now leader of wandsworth council has stopped throwing his cigarette butts on the floor
a arthur

18 December 2013

Very happy to see this good news on the litter prevention front. Congratulations! Visit for a complete library of news and resources aimed at lowering the overall rate of littering around the world. Jam packed with info, this website is freely available to all to use.
Sheila White

29 July 2013