Reading’s rubbish epidemic

When I was a child, my mother once smacked me for throwing a piece of orange peel out of the car window. Smacking children has long since been banned but littering (and even worse, fly tipping) is now endemic in the UK. Say what you like about Europe, but you’d be hard pushed to find cities and countryside on the other side of the channel that are as rubbish-strewn, unsightly and unloved as their British counterparts.

On the streets on the way to work this week, I saw two sofas, a pair of shower doors, a faux leather headboard, a dismantled chair, paint pots, a homebrew kit and countless black bin bags – trussed up and disembowelled – scattering fast food cartons, dirty nappies and recyclable household waste everywhere.

Even if they’re not creating it, what is wrong with people that they are happy to live alongside this rubbish or are unbothered by it? An increasing number of local residents don’t even bother cleaning up litter from their own gardens (or are the source of the rubbish in the first place) and when they visit Cintra Park, Waterloo Meadows or some other scenic green space, they selfishly discard their empty food wrappers, cans and old barbeques, making the picturesque landscape an eyesore for others and a danger to wildlife.

I know UK councils are under massive pressure to cut spending, which may account for reduced street cleaning services and charges for green waste collection, but the Smallmead Recycling Centre is still free for local residents, unless you’re offloading a tonne of topsoil, builder’s rubble or toxic waste. General rubbish and recycling are collected alternate weeks from the doorstep, if residents can navigate the not-very-difficult task of sorting their recycling and keeping the lid down, and there are several sets of bottle and paper banks in the ward.

There has been no education or government effort to actively discourage littering in the last few decades (who remembers Keep Britain Tidy?) so there is now no culture of taking personal responsibility for caring for your own environment. The general attitude is that it is acceptable to throw down litter with no consequence and that it is someone else’s job to pick it up.

Until this attitude changes all we can do is to ‘do our bit’.

Do your bit: take some pride in your neighbourhood, make sure you recycle properly and pick up litter outside your house and in your garden. If you’re visiting the recycling centre, ask your neighbours if they have anything that needs disposing of. Report any fly tipping to the council immediately, because if it’s left around, you can guarantee more will appear. If you see someone fly tipping report it to the council. Take part in the Reading adopt your street (RAYS) project, Reading Rescue or other local litter picking events, which are often posted here on the Whitley Pump. Your actions may encourage others to do the same and will result in a more pleasant and vermin-free environment.

Reading Borough Council could also help by saving money on printing those dayglo ‘suspected fly tipping’ stickers and ‘incorrect item’ labels for bins that simply end up as litter themselves and invest in a skip for a monthly rubbish amnesty to encourage responsible disposal and discourage fly-tipping. After all, it’s the council that ultimately have to clear up the mess, either via the street cleaners or in acting upon reports on Love Clean Reading or Fix My Street.

You can learn more about the Reading Adopt Your Street (RAYS) programme here on the Whitley Pump or by emailing or phoning 01189 373534.


  1. Love Clean Reading
  2. Fix My Street
  3. Reading Rescue
  4. Reading Adopt Your Street
  5. Smallmead Recycling Centre
  6. Reading Borough Council rubbish services
  7. Reading Borough Council streetcare

3 thoughts on “Reading’s rubbish epidemic

  1. Some people spend so much time walking around glued to their mobile phones etc that they never perceive anything of the environment around them and are therefore totally unaware of the horrors that Jane rightly draws attention to. Not the only reason I am sure for this lack of concern but maybe a contributory factor?


  2. Pingback: Southampton Street, Elgar Road and Pell Street singled out for rubbish treatment | The Whitley Pump

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