This month I have been re-energised in my endeavour to collect litter by taking part in the Great British Spring Clean under the auspices of Keep Britain Tidy. They encourage their registered #litterheroes to keep a diary:
Day 8: Friday 29 March
I find another unopened can of beer on the pavement in Tooting where I am staying in South London. The general attitude to litter seems almost medieval, accepted as normal and tolerated by residents who rely on road sweepers to clean up rubbish scattered by foxes. My friend did not want me to think of touching litter without gloves but she can’t stop the children picking up lost toys. Each time we pass a shopping trolley of garden waste, abandoned in the street, we see it has attracted more litter. How long will it stay there?
Day 9: Saturday 30 March
I’m off to Premier Radio’s Woman to Woman conference in central London. Litter in the streets seems to be an indication of poor diet. You can see what is being recklessly consumed: sugar-laden drinks, sweets, flavoured crisps, fast food, alcohol. Do we have a natural urge to discard what is bad for our bodies?
Cable ties lie the pavement in Westminster. Although not cheap, builders seem to cut and cast these aside. I picked up a handful that could easily be re-used. PVC cable ties were originally manufactured by my father. He would have wept to see how many are wasted or left to pollute the Earth.
Day 10: Sunday 31 March
Back on the south coast, I find an empty beer bottle, coffee cup and two dog poo bags sitting on the flood defense gate over the Lymington River, left as if for passers-by to admire while they take in the view over the nature reserve. What next? Have these items been carefully placed for me to collect? What if they fall into the river? Could the beer bottle ever jam the sluice gates open and cause flooding? The plastic will be washed into the sea. I give in and collect the items, only grateful they don’t have to be fished out of the brambles.
I go out latter for ten minutes, finding a full bottle of beer along with a large number of cans on a footpath leading to the pub. Some of the tins have been minced by a hedge trimmer, which is maddening. We must clear the verges this spring before vegetation grows. I retrieve another expensive roller from a boat trailer and a various car parts that owners might like returned.
Day 11: Monday 1 April
The police arrive to examine the HP laptop and jewellery box I found chucked in the river last week. A silver bracelet engraved with the name Shirley lies inside. Everything is taken to the police station. The officer recommends putting a photo on Facebook in an attempt to find the rightful owner. My post soon has 92 shares. I only hope it is not too upsetting.
~Do you know anyone called Shirley who is missing this?~
I also post a photo of a strange car part found yesterday and am told it is from a Mercedes. A grateful lady comes to collect the roller from her boat trailer. I continue picking up litter from the lane alongside the Lymington River and spot something familiar. It is the mud-guard that fell off my husband’s car weeks ago. I am thrilled. He says, ‘Oh, I thought it would turn up some time.’
Day 12: Tuesday 2nd April
The council message me to ask if I can tell them where three road signs I dragged out of the ditch can be located. I find one has already disappeared from the verge where I left it. I collect a rusty car radiator and two buckets of rubbish from the lane running alongside the nature reserve. Its raining, the dog won’t join me and am beginning to feel morose when I am struck by the sight of a double rainbow, arching over my buckets left in a gateway. It is as if I am being thanked for all I am doing.
Day 13: Wednesday 3rd April
I resume collecting bottles and cans from the lane wearing rubber gloves and Wellington boots, jumping into the ditch in an effort to extract bottles and cans before they are washed into the sea. What do you conclude when you find a lipstick in a wild, marshy place? I discovered a handbag not far away and kept searching the area, coming across an iPhone and an Acer laptop.
Back at home, I go through the handbag with care, looking for something with the owner’s name, as the police officer taught me. I ring the number on a pile of identical business cards and eventually get through. The owner is travelling through London on a bus. Her bag had been stolen from her car ages ago but she sounded very pleased to hear from me and said she’d come to retrieve it.
Day 14: Thursday 4th April
As requested, I’ve been posting photos of my litter activity on social media, desperately trying to edit attractive photos of garbage for my Ingram feed. I begin to lose followers on Twitter but gain others as support grows. Encouragement helps no end.
People are making a difference but the task seems endless. One volunteer from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust filled a long-wheel based Land Rover with rubbish from the Lymington causeway last year. Although an ecologically sensitive area, it has somehow attracted more rubbish.
Today it was cold and raining hard. The road drains were blocked. I wonder why? I reached down to pick up one piece – just one piece – but if I don’t a dolphin could die.
Total for week: About 60 minutes
My Stop – Start campaign
Stop chucking litter
Start picking it up
Stop flushing things down the loo
Start getting organised – get a car bin
Sophie Neville is an author with books available from Amazon
7 thoughts on “Diary of a litter-picker: week 2 of the Great British Spring Clean”
Well Done! I pretty well can’t take a walk with my wife without her picking up litter along the way. Always walk with a trash sack with us!
Good for her! I use a plastic bag when walking into town so I can shove it into a litter bin but find that the large buckets are generally better as you can collect broken glass and they don’t flap. I would regret not taking one if I saw litter, which I always notice. Have you taken part in a beach clean yet?
An unopened anything of beer is rare in Tooting! My wife was also an avid litter-picker and she has educated me to pick up things I see now. She also used to say that nature has a wonderful way of cheering the spirits, even during the worst of weather! A beautiful photo of the rainbows, Sophie.
I found another can of unopened Stella lager washed up on the Solent last night. It looks quite new. I’m tempted to give it was wash and put it in the fridge.
We did consume the sealed and unopened jar of Nescafe I found on the shore. It was perfectly alright and would have been a great waste to have thrown it away. I now store birdseed in the jar.
Good for you! If the seal is unbroken and tight whatever is in the jar or bottle should be fine. I abhor waste!