This is the sight that greeted me on my dog walk the other day. A dump of about 30 empty plastic cider bottles left on a country path. I couldn’t believe it!
Littering is not new. Our streets and pavements have been festooned with it for as long as I can remember. Shame on me that it hasn’t weighed upon my consciousness as much as it should have until I got a dog, a couple of years ago. Since then, I have been out and about daily, walking along bridleways and country paths, whilst exercising my dog. My eyes and senses have been simultaneously exercised by the sun glinting on multi-coloured crisp and sweet packets, by the patter of raindrops on drink cans, by carpets of burst helium balloons draped in hideous technicolour over ground and shrubs and a veritable tsunami of plastic bottles, as pictured above.
Feeling ashamed of my complacency about my littered environment, I presented myself at my local council’s offices and, by prior arrangement, collected a litter picker and roll of plastic bags (recyclable, I believe). Since then, I have gone out, a couple of times a week, armed rather menacingly with my litter picker, to free some of my local countryside of its litter scourge. On the days when I am not lengthening one arm by dragging round a heavy bag of other people’s rubbish, I try to pick up and bin one piece of litter, whilst I’m out with the dog.
By far the largest components of my litter haul are beer cans and plastic cider bottles. I’m not sure how this arises. Do a group of people call each other and say – fancy a drink? Yeah? Ok, let’s go down to the third field by the farm or into the woods. Then when they have drunk their fill, they look around for a barmaid to clear the empties and there’s no one around. Only one thing to do then – chuck it down on the ground.
I have never been a litter lout and have always found litter offensive. I find it difficult to understand why people cannot be responsible for their own litter and “stash the trash”, where it belongs, in a bin, preferably for recycling. I do reflect, however, that, over the last 30 years of my life, we have become wedded to packaging, whether plastic or other material, to an exponential degree, myself included.
Thinking back to when I was 26, I don’t recall there being such an extensive plastic offering. Where I was living, at the time, in the north of England, takeaways of food and drink were starting to come on stream, but not on the scale we see today. Starbucks and Costa coffee shops hadn’t yet come to town and when I popped out from work to grab a sandwich, I went to a little sandwich shop round the corner from my office and took my lunch away, wrapped in parchment paper. In my local supermarket, I would help myself to cereals and other dried products, out of large bins. I don’t think there was as much material to throw away.
Is there some sort of correlation between packaging and litter do you think? I can’t help thinking that there is, even though there is no excuse for littering. I wish, now, that I’d given more thought to the whole issue of packaging, its disposal and the environment. I wish I’d realised, when I was 26, how much my convenience would inconvenience the generations coming after me. I should have followed my parents’ example and taken my own shopping bag to the supermarket, rather than helping myself to numerous plastic bags which will suffocate the earth as landfill.
Better late than never, older and wiser, these phrases run through my blog theme. I shall continue with my litter picking and I shall try to moderate my use of packaging, as I have been for some time now. I’m no Boadicea-like eco warrior – I just don’t have the legs for it – but I can and should do more. I’m listing some of my current, rather paltry efforts which don’t really require much from me. Do you have any tips for a less packaged life? I’d love to hear.
- take my own bags for food and other shopping
- buy fruit and veg loose and unpackaged, wherever possible
- cut down on the purchase of take away drinks – making my own in a takeout mug or drinking inside from crockery cups
- wash and re-use food storage bags until they fall apart
- use tuppaware to carry home-made sandwiches
- use real soap for personal washing rather than soap from a plastic bottle
- throw rubbish straight into the bin rather than plastic bagging it, then clean the bin out with soap and water
- buy products in recyclable cartons and containers, wherever possible
- take my recyclable rubbish to recycle bins
I don’t want to get political about this, but there is a whole lot more that could be done by local and central government to improve matters. Sadly I’ve got old lady cyncical disease and have very low expectations of improvement from those quarters. I do however cling to the hope that individuals can make a difference, however micro, if they take personal responsibility for themselves and their environment.
Off to walk the dog now and to collect a few more empties.