How have we allowed an American influenced nightmare to take its hold on our towns and cities?
I am not talking about superstores, or even knifings, a particularly British version of shootings, but the ugly matter of the explosion in the growth of fast food takeaways. Fast food may have turned us into one of the fattest nations in Europe, but it has also turned us into one of the foulest.
Our Government established some time ago a principle of ‘polluter pays’ for clearing up polluted sites, but all of us pay for the litter of branded coke cups and saucy finger-licking plates that are discarded in all our high streets.
There is now talk of a levy on every supermarket plastic bag – but why not also a levy on every disposable cup, plate and item of cutlery? After all cafes and restaurants have to clear up their own mess and yet the plethora of fast food chains seem to think that it is their right to rely on our council tax payments to clear up theirs.
All households may be learning to separate and recycle, but so should ‘Mac-this’ and ‘Colonel-that’.
Maybe we have to resort to litter laws of Singaporian severity that give zero tolerance to businesses and individuals who treat our public realm in a way they would not tolerate at home
Law 1: Charge all takeaway merchants a surtax to compensate for the litter that they produce for others to discard.
Law 2: Charge £100 fine to anyone caught throwing litter, including chewing gum and fag-ends in a public place.
Law 3: Add 3 points to the licence of anyone in charge of a car from which litter is thrown.
Law 4: All culprits to do community service clearing chewing gum off pavements or separating rubbish of a particularly sticky and smelly nature, in Naomi Campbell style.
I know there are more important things in the world, and that by the standards of Mumbai’s slums we may look relatively tidy – but if we are to justify the status of a civilised nation we really should clear our bushes of loo paper and plastic bags, and our pavements of the remains of pizza suppers.
The police would no doubt say that they have far too much to do dealing with dangerous crime to become litter wardens – and that I understand – but it is the experience of others that if the punishment is painful enough (I am not proposing beatings or cutting off hands) and some examples are made early on, the problem fast disappears.
Maybe I am being uncharacteristically intolerant, however we really should ask whether we are more civilised than the Mumbai slum dwellers that do re-cycle virtually everything. Maybe it is we who are the real slumdogs?
by George Ferguson, Chairman of Acanthus Ferguson Mann Architects