Grant Woodward: Let’s declare war on litter louts

Litter doesn't just blight Leeds' streets, it also costs us a fortune every year to clean up. Photo credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
Litter doesn't just blight Leeds' streets, it also costs us a fortune every year to clean up. Photo credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
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They’re not just blighting our streets, they’re also costing us a fortune.

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

“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 Leeds too.

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 resides 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 floor 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 the council has just announced that anyone caught 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.

But 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 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 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 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.

Thanks a Lotto, John

SO there we have it. All this Olympic success is down to John Major.

Way back in the mid-90s (I know, it doesn’t seem that long ago to me either) it was his government that decided to launch the National Lottery.

Since then hundreds of millions of pounds have poured their way into UK sport, helping British athletes to win getting on for 700 Olympic and Paralympic medals.

It certainly makes a change from the grim days of Atlanta 1996 when Team GB (still known as the rather less trendy Great Britain back then) finished 36th on the medal table behind the might of Algeria and Kazakhstan.

Rowing heroes Steve Redgrave and Matt Pinsent won our solitary gold medal that year. In Rio, as I write this, we’re up to 19.

Cheers John. And there was me thinking the grey man of British politics was beyond redemption after those naughty antics with Edwina Currie. Although, to be fair, that probably took courage worthy of a medal in its own right.

The only downside to all this success is that it’s given us a bit of a gambling problem. What started as a harmless £1 flutter on a Saturday night with a perma-grinning Anthea Turner has turned into an annual spend of some £2.5m on scratchcards alone, late night game shows eager to part the bored and desperate from their cash and ever more addictive betting apps and websites.

Still, just look at all those shiny gold medals.

So you think you know Leeds?

BBC Radio Leeds the other day but I’ve just finished writing a book.

It’s a look at the life and times of Leeds since the first edition of the YEP rolled off the presses 125 years ago.

It’s called In Love with Leeds and features some incredible stories from the past and a host of brilliant pictures taken by the paper’s photographers down the years.

Writing it was a hugely enjoyable process because as much as you think you know about a place, there are still plenty of things to surprise you.

The archives here at the YEP are a true treasure trove of tales of heroes, villains and the stories and people behind the astonishing events that have unfolded in the city over the last one and a quarter centuries.

I think you would enjoy the book too. It’s due out in October but you can pre-order and have your name included in the back by visiting ypbookoffer.co.uk.

Date: 20th September 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
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