Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Thoughts on Littering

When we first moved back to England my children didn’t drop litter. Anything we’d taken out with us always came home with us. Sadly, the town we were living in at the time – Partington – was very littered.

One day, while walking the younger of my daughters home from school, she nonchalantly dropped an empty crisp bag on the pavement.

“Err… why did you do that?” I wanted to know.

“Well everybody does so one more isn’t going to matter, is it?”

Yes it certainly would matter! I explained to her that just because everybody else does something doesn’t make it right and, having been plucked from the frightening pile of sweet papers, fag packets and various other detritus that lined the street, the crisp packet came home with us.

Unfortunately, littering is a common habit here and in many other countries. Why? I really haven’t a clue. Why would anybody want to live surrounded by rubbish when they could otherwise have a clean, safe environment to live in? Beats me!

Not only is litter unsightly, animals get hurt by it. Many suffocate inside plastic bags and containers, others are cut by glass, birds get their beaks stuck inside the necks of plastic bottles and starve to death and empty cans are always dangerous once an animal gets the scent of food inside, even those without their lids on. Birds and fish die from swallowing balloons, bottle tops and other small plastic items, and abandoned fishing line wreaks hazard for the birds and mammals that make their homes on and along rivers and canals. And to think the latter's left by people who claim to enjoy being out in nature!

I remember taking a walk through a very small local wood last year and coming across an area where a few people had obviously gathered. There lay a pile of empty beer cans and a couple of used nappies! It wasn’t a pretty sight. And considering that a disposable nappy takes between 200-500 years to biodegrade, they’re going to be laying there for a loooong time! Parents leave nappies on beaches, in parks, along road verges and… well, just about anywhere it’s possible to leave one! Are they really that uneducated or do they just not care? Are so many Brits really happy to be living in a country filled with trash?

I’ve always believed that if you’re capable of carrying something with you when you go out, you’re equally capable of carrying it back home again. It really isn't difficult. There’s absolutely no excuse to litter and set the taxpayer back more council tax than necessary just because part of it’s being spent on cleaning up after those who are plainly too lazy to clear up after themselves!

Let's have some pride, eh? England could be such a beautiful country if so many of its people didn't create such eyesores.

Sharon J


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Ellen said...

unfortunately its the minority ruining things for the majority again. This countrys problem with that there are too many losers and wasters who dont care about anything other than whatever brings immediate benefits to themselves. Theyre generally the ones who are causeing the litter problems.

Sharon J said...

I do think what you say about 'immediate benefits' is true, Ellen. It seems that some people's attitude is that as long as it doesn't have a direct effect on them then "sod you, Jack". I'm not sure why that is, though.

Sara said...

I think Ellen's right--it's a minority who litter. Unfortunately, a few litterers create the impression that "everyone's doing it" so it must be okay.

Sharon J said...

I agree to a point, Sara, at least when it comes to those who are happy to fly-tip along country lanes, leave furniture on pavements in our towns and cities etc but while my older daughter and I were holidaying in London a few years ago (and not in a depraved area either), we were shocked by the number of people in suits and smart office attire who just threw their cigarette packs, sweet wrappers, empty coffee cups and the likes straight on to the street. Not all of them, obviously, but surely those who did should know better even if "everybody else appears to be doing it"?

WebSmith said...

Many people do this because they have not been told not to.

"Don't do that, man", works most of the time. Sometimes it gets a rude response but they remember that they were told. Especially if they see you picking up after them.

If you have your digital camera handy, that works too. Next comes a call to the police.

Sharon J said...

Crikey! Knowing how some people react to just being looked at let alone spoken to, I'd be taking my life in my hands by approaching most of those who leave their rubbish behind. That particular solution would take somebody tougher than me, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I grew up on a council estate in London where some people would just throw their old furniture, white goods and bags of unwanted clothes right onto the street. Dodging them made walking on the pavements really difficult for mums with buggies but the selfish people who left them there clearly didn't care. The council kept sending warning letters about it, telling us how we could be fined for dumping these things but it didn't stop them because the council could never prove who'd done it.

I now live in a very small town in Yorkshire where it's rare to see this kind of behaviour. As much as it's not very PC to generalise these days, it seems to me that the majority of those who cause serious litter problems (can you call furniture litter?) are those who are on long-term benefits, living in social housing.

Sharon J said...

Hi Anon,

We also lived on a similar estate in Manchester for a few years and had the same type of problem. All sorts of rubbish was dumped on the green at the back of us, including an old toilet and a pile of bricks. Furniture left in the street was set alight by kids but I doubt those who dumped these things ever gave any thought to how dangerous it could be.

We still live in social housing but it’s just a very small estate that’s a mix of private and housing association homes. Luckily, the housing seem to crack down quickly on those who cause problems. For a short while we had some trouble with excessive amounts of litter and an old cot mattress was dumped on the street but it soon stopped so I guess the perpetrators were caught and moved on. A while back everybody in our terrace received a letter related to rubbish that was being dumped over the back fence into the grounds of the building behind us. I haven’t heard anymore about it though, so I’m guessing that was sorted too.

We still see the odd crisp bag or chocolate wrapper on the street where kids have dropped them but it hasn’t got out of hand. All in all this is a nice neighbourhood to live in even though some of the residents are on long-term benefits and live in social housing so I don’t think we can draw everybody with the same pencil. I do agree that most of the problems appear to be on large social housing estates, though.

I’m not sure whether furniture, white goods etc are classed as ‘litter’ but I know what you mean :)