In our Waste Group committee meetings we’ve been talking about these thick rubber bands that have been turning up all over the place!

It may sound little but when you live in a fairly clean area, seeing these rubber bands all over the place is unsightly! Then of course, you have the issue of injustice. Individuals can be fined for dropping litter but a giant like Royal Mail can let their staff continue to do it and get away with it? Also, who will clear them up?

Well….there seems to be a lot of people who are unhappy with it because the Keep Britain Tidy campaign got loads of bands sent in to them! Over 1000 bands were sent to them in one week!

So I’ve written to Keep Britain Tidy and Royal Mail.

Mick Oliver who is the Chair of the Waste Group has written to Royal Mail after I copied him in to my communication with them. Here’s what he wrote: –

Dear Kirsty,

Heena Modi and I share an interest in wishing for Harrow to be free of red rubber band litter, and she has copied me in on her emails to you.

Over the last week I have gathered 60g (2oz) of red rubber band litter at the junction of Alton Ave., Stanmore with The Highway. Alton Ave. is a small suburban cul de sac – I picked up my sample in 2 pickings. In no way can these have been dropped accidentally – they have obviously been discarded deliberately.

I have been in separate contact with Royal Mail in the past and was disappointed at the outcome, which led me to publicise my contacts in Harrow Agenda 21 “In Contact” – this article is given below. We are also supporting Keep Britain Tidy’s campaign – can I refer you to ?


Mick Oliver

Chair, HA21 Waste & Recycling Group

Royal Mail rubber band litter

In less responsible times a cross-country run could take the form of a paper-chase, when a leader scattered paper as he ran, and everyone else followed his trail. These days have gone – almost! Now you can follow your postman by following the trail of red rubber bands he scatters.

The Waste and Recycling group find this objectionable for the following reasons:

We are aware of the Waste hierarchy Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and fully support it. This is a hierarchy, in order of merit. All products have to be manufactured, which uses both energy and the raw materials the product is made from. By reusing items we avoid using energy and raw materials – sustainability, for our benefit and future generations.

It is litter, which is already a big enough problem.

Fast food litter is a larger problem, but fast food litter is left by the fast food companies’ customers – rubber band litter is left by Royal Mail’s employees as they carry out their normal duties, a situation Royal Mail have a chance of controlling.

Litter is an offence, and single items of litter like cigarette ends, Wotsits and pastry from a sausage roll have resulted in prosecutions, with fines between £50 and £80 – Royal Mail are not considering this possibility.

You can often find as many as 10 rubber bands discarded in the same place (where the postman parks his car?). Single rubber bands could be dropped by accident – 10 in one place can only be discarded deliberately.

Harrow’s practice with autumn leaf fall is to compost it – this becomes more difficult if it is contaminated.

We have been in correspondence with Royal Mail. Royal Mail are an organisation with green credentials – their Christmas mailing to all their customers had 4 separate statements on green issues, and they have a Director responsible for Sustainability. We were disappointed with their replies, which did not address the fundamental issue on sustainability, and which we found unconvincing for the following reasons. They:

  • promised that they would alert their local delivery office, to minimise the bands they dropped in the Chair’s street (fool the agitator and keep him quiet, never mind the wider issue of nationwide waste and litter)
  • stated that the bands were made from natural rubber (using a buzz word that they hoped we would welcome, hence would keep us quiet. Whether rubber bands are made from natural or synthetic rubber, they are compounded with many other materials – rubber items are pretty artificial, whichever rubber is used.)
  • stated that the bands are biodegradable (using another buzz word in the hope that this would satisfy us. Rubber items in the air and sunlight could deteriorate by embrittling and losing their elasticity – they will remain around as litter, and this photochemical action can hardly be described as “biodegradable”. We are surrounded by long-lasting rubber items such as tyres and erasers – surely Royal Mail are aware of these and that their claim is fatuous?)

Our correspondence with Royal Mail is now closed, but we thought it would interest readers of “In Contact”.

Check out these photos of rubber bands all over just one road in Harrow.

Check out a video about bands in Pinner here. 🙂

Any thoughts anyone?

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Sagar · July 4, 2009 at 5:50 pm

It’s funny how simple things like this become very relevant in our everyday lives.

It would be nice if people would just be generally more considerate of others in general.

    Heena Modi · July 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Hear hear!:)

Suraj · July 19, 2009 at 12:45 am

You know my cousin works for the post office in the USA and they have the exact same issues as our Royal Mail. So it’s just not us Brits — the yanks have the same sh_ _ to deal with!!

Anon · July 20, 2009 at 5:44 pm

apart from littering, its costly – maybe the delivery people should be charged for rubber bands – I’m sure they wouldn’t throw them away then

    Heena Modi · July 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Good point! 🙂

Sagar · July 21, 2009 at 5:28 am

I was reading about recycling and came about this blog. What is the purpose of the rubber bands in the mail? Seems like such a waste and would irritate

    Heena Modi · July 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I think they use them to group letters together e.g. batches for specific roads

John Edwards · July 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm


I am aware that you have sent this e-mail to a number of people, but I am not sure if you have received a reply.

The council will sweep up these rubber bands as routine street cleaning when they are dropped in public areas.

Royal Mail state that they frequently remind their staff about the need to avoid dropping the bands, but control of individual employees remains a challenge. I believe that the use of red bands was part of an approach to clearly identify that the bands were being dropped by Royal Mail Staff.

ENCAMS (more widely known for the Keep Britain Tidy campaign has been putting a lot of pressure on Royal Mail, including a recently ended campaign of asking people to collect the bands and then send them to Royal Mail.

At Harrow we see Royal Mail as a significant partner contributing to the appearance of Harrow and would to them to coninue to press their staff to do the right thing. We do have the facility to issue fixed penalty notices if need be, but tend to focus our attention on issues such as major fly tipping.

Best wishes


John Edwards
Divisional Director Environment Services
Harrow Council
Civic Centre
Station Road
020 8736 6799

Heena Modi · July 26, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Have a look at this video guys –

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