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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British postmen should face on-the-spot fines for throwing away the red rubber bands they use to bundle letters, a litter watchdog said on Monday.
Keep Britain Tidy said Royal Mail staff are not above the law and should be subject to the same 80 pound ($119) spot fine for littering as other members of the public.
"Elastic bands may not be as visually offensive as dog dirt or half-eaten pizza, but they are most definitely litter," said the charity's Dickie Felton.
"Is it really too much to ask them to put the rubber bands in their pocket as they do their daily rounds?"
He said it was difficult to assess the scale of the problem as the bands were also dropped on garden paths and driveways, but the charity estimated that six percent of all England' as the bands were also dropped on garden paths and driveways, but the charity estimated that six percent of all England' s streets had red rubber bands strewn around them.
Royal Mail said it was already addressing the issue.
"The Royal Mail regularly stresses to its postmen and women the importance of avoiding litter and the vast majority of our rubber bands are recycled, with millions being reused every week," a spokeswoman said.
Postal workers met the calls for spot fines with disbelief.
"It's a silly idea really, given that the majority of postmen don't deliberately drop rubber bands on the floor," said Denise Goldfinch, 46, a London postwoman who has worked for the service for 23 years.
"We are told by our supervisors to put them back in our carrier bags and it seems ridiculous to fine us for dropping bands occasionally by mistake," she said, pointing out that the bands were red to make them easier to spot on the ground.
The watchdog urged Royal Mail to get to grips with the problem and has asked residents to collect the rubber bands as part of a "Big Tidy Up" campaign.
"Between now and the end of April, we want residents to collect any red rubber bands they find and send them to Keep Britain Tidy.
"In early May we will then send them back to Royal Mail," Felton said.
(Additional reporting by Anna Macswan, editing by Paul Casicato)
Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison