The diary of a litter picker: 20 reasons why it’s good to collect trash

As a child, I collected sea shells on the beach. Now I walk by the Solent pulling rope and other litter out of the springy coastal turf, finding rubbish that has literally grown into the landscape. I often find litter that looks as if it has been previously ingested by New Forest ponies that graze the area. Some plastic had been around for years. How old is the Mars Bar wrapper or the bottle of Fair Liquid in this photo?

As I work, I’ve been thinking up reasons why it is good to collect litter:

  1. You can make a difference – improving the environment very quickly.
  2. Items that are potentially harmful to wildlife and pets get removed.
  3. Quantities of glass, metals and plastic can be recycled instead of languishing for years.
  4. It is an easy way of paying back the natural world and society for the good things we freely enjoy.
  5. A huge amount of satisfaction is gained by logging findings and looking back on the results, especially when you map the area.
  6. It is satisfying to be able to return lost or stolen items to their rightful owners.
  7. You can find interesting or useful items – including things you’ve lost yourself.
  8. You occasionally find money.
  9. As your eye adjusts, you begin to notice all sorts of interesting things.
  10. It broadens your appreciation of the natural world and can become relaxing.
  11. It is a productive way of keeping fit especially if you bend.
  12. It gets you outside, exploring your neighbourhood by using footpaths and lanes you might not walk along.
  13. At times you can litter-pick while walking the dog.
  14. It can be social and an amusing activity to do with friends.
  15. It is a way of meeting new people with good intentions.
  16. You invest in the future: If you take children litter-picking they are unlikely to throw it.
  17. Once you collect litter it is less likely re-accumulate. Litter attracts fly-tipping.
  18. You gain an insight into social problems in the area that need addressing such as theft and drink driving.
  19. You tend to receive encouragement and moral support, especially from neighbours.
  20. You become more diligent about your own recycling.

Could you add to the list? Please use the comments box below.

~ Returning used egg boxes to the community shop ~

One Thursday in May –

I decided to count how many pieces of #plasticpollution I could pick up from the Solent shore in an hour. Since this was along a section of coast that I have been cleaning for years, most of the cellophane, plastic bags and other items had been washed in on the tide, so it took longer than litter picking: 101 items in one hour.

~101 pieces of plastic pollution washed up on Solent shores ~

One Friday in May –

Tonight I walked westwards along the Solent shore, thrilled to find a plastic feed bucket, an unopened can of larger,a torch, a new tennis ball and a cap. I also picked up a helium balloon, black tubing, an empty bottle of rum and various pieces of rope from the fishing industry. My dog spotted an old flip flop.

~50 pieces of rubbish washed up on the Solent coast~

One Monday in May – 

Since New Forest ponies, wildfowl and other animals graze on Solent shores I am keen on collecting broken glass. As there is no wave action, it remains sharp for decades. I can’t bear the thought of swans’ feet being cut. I collected this much in an hour but failed to reach it all.

I met two South Africans on the beach who told me more than fifty tonnes of rubbish had recently been washed onto the shore near Durban in the recent floods.

~a cap, 2 balloons and about 50 pieces of rubbish and broken glass~

For a full list of items I’ve found on the same stretch of coastline, please click here

How many items could you collect in an hour? Were any useful? Please note your findings in the comments below.

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

14 thoughts on “The diary of a litter picker: 20 reasons why it’s good to collect trash”

      1. Yay, Sophie! We’re so lucky to have the energetic Milly who started Litter Free Lewes, and now there are also several groups specific to districts of Lewes; and finally Milly’s campaiging group – there’s a photo of Milly holding a sign.
        Sorry you didn’t see our great-fun play on Sat (standing room only :-)), but I should think you had a mass of things to do that weekend!

  1. I used to pick up litter every day when I lived in Herefordshire, and you are so right in your twenty points. It can be satisfying, and others began to do so too. Must do so here in North Wales!!

    1. I pick up litter almost every time I go out now. There was much less in Gloucestershire than on the Hampshire verges. I know one person can create quite a mess if they use the same lane everyday. I found the Great British Spring Clean motivated me to clean up after one wretch and get into the ditches. Keep Britain Tidy have Facebook Groups and other encouraging platforms. Using a counter really spurs me on. I collected 264 pieces on my beach clean last night. This didn’t fill a bucket, but its important to collect the wrappers and small pieces. Let me know how you get on!

  2. I think you 20 points are truisms in the extreme; particularly no.20. It is so important to protect our beautiful environment. We should be teaching this in schools, formally!

    1. Many schools are doing this. It’s drivers I’m keen on reaching right now. Evidence of cans and bottles of alcohol are being chucked out of vehicles is scary. People are drink-driving.

      1. That really is alarming! It is difficult to see how to counteract drinking and driving other than education, higher police presence, and much stiffer penalties when caught.

        1. I can tell from collecting litter along high banked roads and fenced streets that people are drinking while at the wheel of high vehicles, which is more worrying as lorries and vans must be more dangerous than cars. The drivers are probably drinking while working. Managers need to test their workers and issue them with car bins. It was clear during Lockdown that a lot of litter chucked on verges must be from delivery drivers and essential workers.

          1. This is very worrying. I suppose the only way to really tackle the problem is to catch them doing it, on film. Which would be very difficult.

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