If you take a close look at the pavements up and down the UK, you might notice that they are littered with rubber bands – but where on earth are they coming from?
Unfortunately, the culprit is your local postie, as the Royal Mail use rubber bands to group letters together in their sorting offices ready for postal workers to deliver eagerly-awaited letters and unwanted junk mail in your letterbox.
UK based waste collection company BusinessWaste.co.uk say that the amount of rubber bands thrown on the ground around the UK is in the millions, which makes the Royal Mail one of the nation’s biggest litterers.
Company spokesman Mark Hall says, “Unfortunately, a lot of postal workers have got into the bad habit of flinging the rubber bands onto the pavement instead of collecting them and reusing them. That’s terrible for our environment.”
“Every street has a rubber band on it – have a look around and it won’t take you long to find one.”
Pounding the pavement
With each postie doing the rounds six days a week delivering to every single street in the UK, BusinessWaste.co.uk have estimated how many elastic bands are being used by the Royal Mail each year.
A freedom of information request spills the beans that nearly 1 billion rubber bands are purchased by the company each year.
Only a proportion of this billion go out on rounds, and we have to assume that there are as many litter conscious postal workers as there are who drop rubber bands. So we reckon that as many as 250 million line our streets every single year.
Adam Bailey from rubbish removal company Divert.co.uk commented “Imagine how many more are being bought each year, especially as we have even more houses and entire estates that have been built – and more houses means more rubber bands for the postie”.
So just how bad are these elastic bands for the environment?
Rubber bands take up to 50 years to biodegrade and can be incredibly harmful to the environment. If burned they release carcinogenic pollution into the atmosphere.
And that’s not all because rubber bands can be dangerous for wildlife too, causing them to become tangled up and injured, or even eat them and die.
Birds have been seen to eat elastic bands and even feed them to their young, confusing them for worms on the pavement.
Hedgehogs are also at risk of injury, with reported cases of rubber bands becoming tangled and eventually embedded into their skin causing them severe pain and distress.
Hall: “We have to take a stand and stop the Royal Mail from littering our streets on a daily basis and causing so much harm to our wildlife.
“It’s time for them to do away with rubber bands and find an environmentally alternative.”
Return to sender
For some UK residents, the daily delivery of rubber bands on their streets has been as unwanted as the bills they receive through the letterbox.
One man from Merseyside spent 6 years collecting 10,000 elastic bands dropped by posties, and in 2018 made them all into a rubber band ball which he claimed was the same size as his head.
Mr Brown is calling for the Royal Mail to be fined for each rubber band he has found, which considering his local council fines £80 for dropped litter would cost them upwards of £800,000.
Business Waste spokesman Mark Hall agrees that companies such as the Royal Mail should be reprimanded for littering just as everyone else would be in accordance with fines set by local councils, in order to *ahem* curb the amount of bands they drop.
The Royal Mail do seem to be aware of the problem, and in a statement have said that they have switched to biodegradable bands and try to reuse as many as possible, but for Business Waste this isn’t enough to stop the harm being done to wildlife and the environment.
Hall: “Even the most conscientious postal worker will drop bands at some point, so why not completely do away with them altogether?”
“The Royal Mail need to be held accountable for the amount of rubber bands they are littering on our streets – so maybe if you find them on your road you should do them a favour and pop them into a post-box and send them back.”