While visiting Brighton and Eastbourne last weekend to catch some fun in the sun (this quickly turned to rain), I came across some classic sights expected with big days out: the bright, flashing lights of the pier, fish and chip shops laden with customers eager for a bite to eat after a day on the beach, and... litter.

Not one street I traversed down was free of at least one piece of rubbish, whether it were a faded, empty crisp packet, a flat, forgotten Pepsi can or a dozen soggy cigarette butts.

To passers-by (including myself), however, this sight was nothing out of the ordinary. Litter is now inherently expected from us as a society – rubbish coating roadsides is nothing to bat an eyelid over.

However, should we be taking it more seriously?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: most definitely.

Litter is a monumental problem in the UK.

According to Forge Recycling, the UK taxpayer is paying £1billion each year on clearing litter from England’s streets and green spaces. Imagine how this money could be spent differently to help the wellbeing of people in this country where it is direly needed.

It is important to note that the root of the problem is not the litter itself, but the people dropping the litter. Around 62% of us drop litter; only 28% of us are willing to admit it.

As well as this, only 17% of our waste is recycled, while around 60% is actually recyclable: this includes litter dropped. If we simply took the time to find a recycling bin,

While to some, cigarette butts seem relatively harmless due to the normality of people dropping them instead of properly disposing of them, they do in fact have a detrimental effect on the environment. Used cigarette filters contain high levels of toxins due to the smoke passing through them, and when they get wet in the rain, these toxins enter waterways, causing marine pollution and severely damaging aquatic life.

The RSPCA receives approximately 7000 calls every year for litter-related injuries to animals; these creatures, including pets and wildlife, should not reap the consequences for the mess we have created. Action needs to be taken.

While the government have employed anti-littering strategies, such as fines for litterers, they have not been entirely effective. Most people simply aren’t caught in the act of littering by the authorities, and often when they are, it is unclear where the boundaries are regarding what counts as littering: for example, a woman was given a fine for throwing bread to ducks in 2017.

Therefore, what can really be done?

In my opinion, the only way we can really stop problems like littering is to educate people on the harm they cause. Littering causes not only economic and environmental harm, but detriment to wellbeing: in a government survey, it was found that 82% of people are upset with the way their local area looks due to litter, and many feel it affects their day-to-day mental wellbeing and mood being surrounded by rubbish.

While it may seem all well and good to issue fines (in some occasions it arguably is), this simply will not solve the problem entirely. People need to realise the consequences of their actions in order to think about them and assess them properly.

For many of us, it isn’t our fault. But for even more, it quite frankly is: there is no excuse for littering. If your town’s public in is full or overflowing, you can report it to your local council – for the sake of everyone, just keep it in your bag until you get home.

You’ll be doing everybody a favour.