The first UK pilot scheme using CCTV to specifically target motorists who throw litter from their cars will shortly begin in Maidstone, Kent.
The Maidstone Borough Council is enlisting the help of LitterCam technology, which uses AI to remotely detect vehicle-based littering, and number plate recognition to identify cars involved in littering.
LitterCam is a third party, private company that offers a “complete vehicle-based littering solution for street scene, enforcement and highways maintenance professionals” with the aim of helping them to “Improve environmental quality and reduce the risk of litter clearance”. According to LitterCam, its remote littering-spotting camera solution “includes all hardware, software and services – from detection device to the point where a debtor makes an appeal”.
The video evidence from LitterCam, combined with a DVLA check of the vehicle owner (based on the numberplate recognition images) can then be used to back up the issuing of an automatic £90 fine. If unpaid after 15 days, the fine will rise to £120.
There has been a 500 per cent increase in littering since the 1960s (CPRE figures) and Highways England reports that it picks up more than 200,000 bags of litter from the roadside each year. The problem of littering from cars is reported to have become worse during the pandemic lockdowns, with reports that it has increased in the Maidstone area (where the LitterCam pilot is to be run) by almost 250 per cent.
In addition to looking untidy, littering is responsible for causing:
- Large clean-up bills and usage of resources for local authorities.
- Injuries to wild animals, particularly birds. The RSPB reports 5,000 calls a year regarding litter and 14 calls a day regarding animals affected by litter.
- Pollution and damage to the environment. For example, this can be plastic waste finding its way into rivers and the sea and being swallowed by animals resulting in injuries and death, and toxic pollution of the land and water from chemicals such as that caused by polluted runoff from litter (petrol and consumer waste) infiltrate the soil and water supply. For example, polluted water can affect the environment and can be ingested by fish, other animals, and humans.
Many environmental commentators see the reasons for the problem reaching its current scale as not having an effective tracking and deterrent/punishment system in place (until now), priority and money being given to tackling other issues, people being careless and lazy in a throw-away society, people being able to quickly distance themselves from the results of their littering (being in cars), as well as people not understanding/underestimating the negative impacts of littering.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Technology related to CCTV surveillance has become much more sophisticated and widespread in society as a whole as its benefits have been realised (e.g. reducing and deterring crime) and protecting business premises, saving money and resources, and gathering accurate evidence. The environment is now recognised as being a very important issue as more facts about the surprising effects of littering have been acknowledged (e.g. huge amounts plastic waste in the sea). Motorists littering has also been a real challenge to local authorities with stretched resources in terms of clean-up bills and difficulty in catching the mobile culprits and being able to conclusively link them to the offence. Advanced AI technology (used in conjunction with remote CCTV) is proving to have many varied benefits in various different environments and settings. If this pilot proves effective, it could be rolled out in other areas, thereby benefiting society as a whole and creating new business opportunities for companies offering similar and related services to those of LitterCam.
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