Renowned comedian, writer and South Downs litter picker David Sedaris has suggested to MPs poor people were more likely the culprits of rubbish strewn around the neighbourhood than wealthy ones.
Mr Sedaris, who spends three to eight hours of each day picking up rubbish near his Pulborough home, was advising the Department for Communities and Local Government select committee about how best to tackle the perennial issue.
He said the UK was the worst in the world.
The American humorist, who admitted he was ‘obsessed’ with litter, said: “There’s a Waitrose not far from me. I found one Waitrose bag last year.
“There’s a Tesco Metro that I think is a litter supply store not far by. I find Tesco bags all the time. I don’t find containers that nuts come in. It’s fast food, it’s candy bars.
“I have not found any opera tickets.
“I find more Mayfair cigarettes than any other brand - and are not Mayfair the cheapest cigarettes that there are?
“I’m not trying to sound like a snob, but if you walk down a mile of road and lay it out, there’s no denying that’s what I find.
“I live outside Pulborough and you’re right, it’s beautiful. One of the things that drives me crazy is that it’s beautiful except for the rubbish, so maybe people are thinking ‘I don’t get to live here’, so maybe they are throwing things out of the window as a way of saying ‘screw you people who live here. I know this will upset you’.”
Mr Sedaris, who last year had a Horsham District Council rubbish truck named after him, believed the whole culture of dropping litter needed to change in the UK.
He said: “It’s something that affects everybody. Why should anyone have to live in a teenager’s bedroom.
“It’s bad for your spirit. I don’t care where you live; I don’t care how much money you have - to have to walk through filth is no way to live.”
He once came across a house in West Chiltington, where the garden was full of litter.
He said: “West Chiltington is just how it sounds - huge houses, people have gardeners. This house - I thought it was abandoned there was so much rubbish in the front yard.
“So I pick it up and this woman came from behind this hedge and asks me ‘what are you doing?’.
“I say ‘I’m picking up your litter’. She said ‘Thank God. I was going to call the council to pick it up’. I hear it all the time.
“Then she said ‘you aren’t going to leave that bag here?’.
“She was OK with me picking up all the trash in her front yard, but she wouldn’t let me leave the bag.
“People do this all the time. People don’t want to help. Their attitude is ‘I didn’t drop it, so why should I pick it up?’
During a recent visit to Massachusetts he discovered the penalty there was $10,000, approximately £6,600. In the UK councils can impose a £70 fine for dropping litter.
He told MPs: “You have to go deep into Eastern Europe to find it this bad. I live in France for a number of years and I never saw anything like this anywhere in France.
“I lived in Japan for a while and I’ve never seen any rubbish whatsoever in Japan. It’s obviously a cultural thing.”
He even had criticism for schools.
“Where I live in West Sussex there’s a school - a middle school probably from 12 to 15 years - and the amount of rubbish that comes from the school is staggering.
“So my local councillor wen to the head teacher of the school to talk about it and the head teacher said it’s demeaning to make children pick up rubbish.
“So if that’s the lesson, there’s no hope. If it’s fine to drop litter, but picking it up is disgraceful, then there’s a real problem.
“If it’s hidden it’s ok. Peak into any hedgerow and it’s just like a living trash can or in London the idea is that if you throw it at a tree, then somehow it’s OK.”
The committee is compiling a Government report on tackling litter. Evidence was also given by representatives of the tobacco and fast food industries.