08/06/2012 14:07 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Don't Be A Litter Bug. Teaching Our Children By Example

Heidi Klum bins her rubbish PA Heidi Klum bins her rubbish on a park trip with her children

A staggering thirty million tones of rubbish litters our streets every year according to Keep Britain Tidy which lands the country with an £885 million clean up bill.

Of course all this rubbish isn't dropped by kids; so if adults are doing it too, does this mean we're breeding a nation of litter bugs who will grow up to follow their parents' disgusting and disrespectful habits?

I was parked outside my daughter's school recently and watched in horror as another parent flicked her finished cigarette butt straight out of her window onto the pavement. There were plenty of pupils around to witness this.


What kind of example does this set when a parent can't be bothered to bin their own rubbish and think it's perfectly acceptable to throw it on the ground?


While rubbish on the floor is disgusting it's when it's thrown thoughtlessly from car windows it can be downright dangerous. Jessica's son Steven regularly cycles to and from school and has seen both cigarette butts and drinks cartons hurled from vehicles by both drivers and passengers.

"The roads can be dangerous enough without having to dodge rubbish that comes flying out of cars," says Jessica. And it was exactly this issue of rubbish being thrown from cars that hit the headlines recently when BBC newsreader Alice Arnold jumped from her car at a set of lights and threw back a plastic bottle she'd seen thrown out by the other driver.

While most of the parents I discussed this with were totally in support, (and awe), of Alice's actions; they all voiced concerns over whether they'd do the same thing and it was an overwhelming unanimous verdict that they wouldn't ever encourage their children to challenge strangers over dropped litter.

"You never know what response you're going to get," says mum-of-two, Joanne. "If they're the type of person to drop litter, they're unlikely to pick it up and apologise if you point out what they've done. And while I can handle somebody giving me a mouthful, it's not something I'd want my children to see." And I have to agree with Joanne as I wouldn't actively encourage my daughter to challenge strangers in this way.

Over the years there's been many high profile campaigns aimed at encouraging us to pick up our rubbish. The cuddly 'Wombles' with their recycling and tidying habits over Wimbledon Common got a serious message across a generation ago and today there are people like Gloucestershire shop keeper Yvonne Froud who plays her part in clearing up the neighbourhood by making school children write their name on any crisps and sweets they buy from her, as a deterrent.

Rather than actively 'teaching' our kids not to drop litter; for most of us it's probably more of case of leading by example.

If children see their parents throw rubbish in a bin; they may well copy the habit, but what happens if you don't do it; but your children do?

Sharon, a mum with one daughter, (now a teenager), says she was always brought up to use a bin but admits her daughter Emily went through a stage of unwrapping sweets and just dropping the paper. "I used to get really cross with her and always made her pick it up. I even warned her that a policeman would 'tell her off' and finally stopped her having sweets if we were out."


Dropping litter isn't just about being careless; it's a crime.


Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Clean Neighbourhoods And Environment Act you can face fines up to £80.

If you want to get involved with a clean up campaign in your community check out for over three hundred projects currently on the go.