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Don't complain about the council's inability to tidy litter on the streets writes Ros Dodd. It's time we cleaned up our own act.

One of the benefits of motoring along the urban highways of Birmingham over the festive season is that they are light on traffic. This provides the perfect opportunity to survey the scene rather than concentrating one's energy on delivering road rage expletives at appalling drivers.

What struck me as I drove between Moseley and Kings Norton to feed a friend's cats early on Boxing Day was the amount of rubbish strewn along almost every pavement and outside most fast food and local retail outlets. It was in the gutters, littered over the roads and congealed in various gardens.

Having just returned from rural, tidy Devon, where I spent New Year, the problem of rubbish on the streets of Birmingham is even more accentuated.

We live in a densely-populated, mass-consuming community and shed detritus faster than the hungriest of ‘huggable' hoodies can ram a burger down their neck. But why oh why do we have to leave the unwanted Christmas wrapping paper, discarded chip papers, cola and lager cans, sweet and crisp wrappers and a whole host of other domestic waste littered over our streets and pavements?

The worst sites for the wanton dumping of garbage are the mini-supermarkets and burger bars that are a feature of every urban locale. Despite prominently situated rubbish bins, the environs are drenched in rubbish.

And what do these lucrative mini-marts and fast food outlets do about the litter? Why, ignore it.

It's not their problem, is it? Well, yes, it is. Or, it surely ought to be. One can point the finger of blame at the council for not attending to their duties assiduously enough, but even much better-run local authorities than Birmingham would struggle to keep pace with the profligacy of waste discarded in public spaces.

Now that environmentalism is at last beginning to pierce the public psyche, it beggars belief that local businesses apparently turn a blind eye to the rubbish shed on their doorsteps.

Why is it that these outlets don't feel a sense of responsibility to clear up after their customers? How much effort would it take, for Heaven's sake, to send a member of staff out on to the pavement once or twice a day and pile the garbage into a bin liner?

Whilst I'm against the idea of lumbering small businesses with yet more legislation, I would be the first person to welcome the introduction of fines for companies who do nothing to remove rubbish that they, inadvertently, generate.

At the very least, mopping up after your slovenly customers is about pride: if local shops and fast food joints don't give a stuff about the state of the pavement outside their gaff, one has to wonder about how much pride they take in what they sell.

To many outsiders, Birmingham is still considered a grimy city - and if the detractors were to see the messy streets in even so-called salubrious suburbs, it would be hard to disabuse them of the notion.

So come on Brum, clean up your act for 2007. It's one New Year resolution that with a bit of common sense and joined-up thinking might not fall by the (litter strewn) wayside before January is out.


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