Tag Archives: litter heroes

Diary of a lone litter-picker: week 4 of the Great British Spring Clean

~Things I’ve found on Solent shores, including the buckets~

Day 21 –

Our garden has become a retirement home for old buoys.  The school holidays have begun and hordes of small children descend on us and pester them. While dear old Mr Puce tolerates being punched, kicked and swung on, Miss Black, a fender who I found washed up on the shore, has a new role as a garden cushion.

‘Oh buoy, Oh buoy – Give us a wave!’

Mr White, an elderly buoy who had obviously been working on the Solent, was offered a new role on the Beaulieu River but has opted for a swinging job on a climbing frame in South London. Mr Pink, who had a career in the chemical industry before taking up life on the ocean wave, has passed on, along with one old buoy who sadly got cut up and split his sides open.

It is a crisp spring evening. I take a footpath through the New Forest National Park with my dog and return home with a number of plastic drums and 5 litre containers I’d previously pulled out of a remote wetland area. The children are revolted. Time spent collecting this rubbish: 40 minutes.

Day 22 –

I sort the litter I’ve collected since the beginning of the Great British Spring Clean: 20 green glass bottles, 20 brown glass bottles and 20 clear glass bottles plus about 10 assorted glass recepticals. Most were so dirty I’ve had to soak them. My husband takes them to be recycled. This is important to him as he used to manufacture cut glass crystal and knows you can’t make glass without glass. A four year-old boy helps me count 137 squashed tins that once contained alcohol. They fill one recycling bag. I can’t bear the thought of counting the plastic bottles. This takes 20 minutes.

~137 tins which once held alcohol, found along one country lane~

I need to sneak off without the dog knowing. It’s too dangerous for him to collect litter with me beside the main road. I work away for about 15 minutes deciding a lot of people must be drink-driving. Only drivers chuck litter into the verges here. They must have serious disassociation issues to chuck it out while negotiating the sharp bend.

One driver wasn’t concentrating when coming down the hill not so long ago. The car didn’t turn around the bend at all. It carried straight on, splitting a large black and white chevron sign in two and landing upside-down in the river. The lights were still on when I passed by on my usual litter-picking walk. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. The vehicle had been wrapped in police cordon tape by the time I returned but lay leaking oil into the river for six weeks. I extracted one half of the chevron sign at the start of the Great British Spring Clean. It is going begging if anyone would like it to decorate their bedroom. The council couldn’t possibly use it.

Day 23 –

What I thought might be hay-fever turns out to be full-blown cold. I have no energy to expend sorting the carefully gathered rubbish piled up outside my back door. My husband returns from re-cycling the bottles saying that they don’t separate the coloured glass anymore.

~This section of the Solent foreshore was multi-coloured with mirco-plastics 15 years ago~

We have a Portuguese friend staying who also has a bad cold and wants to collect seawater to clear his sinuses. I take him down to the Solent shore. Here I collect micro-plastics including drinking straws and a balloon and 5kgs of rubbish from a wetland area. The whole exercise takes 90 minutes as the location is quite remote.

Day 24 –

My cold is pulling me down but I find a wheel-hub and spend 20 minutes gathering litter from the roadside going up the hill, amazed at how much old rubbish I didn’t spot the first time. New items infuriate me. Today a Costa coffee mug sits on a ledge overlooking the river like a hidden Easter egg. A banana skin has been carefully folded inside and the cap clipped back on. What does the person who purchased this assume will happen next? It’s madness. Costa give customers a 25p discount if they provide their own mug.

I’m told that nothing can be labelled ‘disposable’ anymore. Things don’t disappear, we simply move them to another place. I maintain that vegetables decompose and chuck the banana skin into the undergrowth but collect the cup with its plastic cap. I know Costa want to recycle this but I can’t walk into all the way into town especially.

Day 25 –

I’m ill in bed nursing my cold but get up in the evening determined to collect another bucketful of rubbish from the main road. I find a discarded ‘Bag for Life’ on the verge and return with quite a number of tins and empty bottles of alcohol.

Are glass bottles being flung out of moving vehicles? I spend a total of 40 minutes collecting and sorting as refuse is collected first thing tomorrow.

Day 26 –

I close my laptop at 6.00pm and spend 40 minutes in search of litter on footpath up to the pub and the main road on the way down. A number of cans have been shredded by a hedge trimmer that breaks glass bottles and makes everything more difficult. I fill a large bucket with cans and a black plastic bag with other rubbish before coming across a discarded road sign. The wheel hub I propped up for motorists to find is still in situ. I wonder how many have been collected by #litterheroes this month?

What do drivers think of me as I grub around at the side of the road? What would they think if I chucked the rubbish back into the road? I get upset when I find newly strewn litter but what can I do? Arrange a line of cans across the lane? String up plastic bottles like Christmas decorations? Would it stop anyone littering?

Day 27 –

I spend the evening walking along the Solent shore, alone with the dog, the sea birds and micro plastics. I photograph my catch before loading the hard stuff. It is clear that some pieces, including a balloon, must have already passed through the digestive tract of an animal, possibly a forest pony.

My aim is to collect bottles and ancient plastic containers lodged in the mud on a footpath running through a wood where I once found Mr-Pink-the-chemical-container in a down-and-out state. I recognise one turquoise bottle from the 1960s. The expedition takes 90 minutes.

Day 28 –

The lady whose stolen handbag I found contacts me to say she can pick it up on 24th April – the last day of the Great British Spring Clean. I still have so much to do.

I take my buckets down to the Solent beach I need to clean. Parking rules have suddenly changed. I’m required to pay £2.50 an hour. Thousands of pounds have obviously been spent on the terminal for the Isle of Wight ferry but this beach next to it, which could be a great asset, has been ignored.

I squeeze my car into a friend’s driveway and take my buckets down to the shore. It is like a rubbish dump. Every time I pull up a section of plastic, sand flies rise. I stuff as much as I can into a bag and gather bottles, plastic straws, fishing net, a yachting cap and other flotsam, and depart with as much as I can carry. The last thing I find is a fairy liquid bottle that must be 30 years old. It’s suddenly all too much. 40 minutes and I have hardly made any impression on the filth. I need to return with friends. As I write this, a neighbour messages me to say she’ll join me. If we work together it’ll be more amusing.

~Which is the oldest plastic bottle?~

What impact has this project had on my life? I have become more dedicated to recycling. Every milk bottle top gets saved for MENCAP. Every tin is crushed and recycled. The amount of domestic rubbish we produce has decreased – as has my waistline. All the walking and bending is keeping me fit. At this rate I might just gain the figure of a Fairy Liquid bottle.

Total for week: 395 minutes (nearly 7 hours)

To see a list of the things I’ve found on a beach clean please click here

 

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Diary of a lone litter-picker: week 2 of the Great British Spring Clean

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 it 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 defence 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 the 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

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Diary of a lone litter-picker: week 1 of the Great British Spring Clean

2,500,000 pieces of litter are dropped in the UK every day. It amounts to 912,500,000 pieces a year. This costs nearly £1 billion to clear up. As we all know, much lies languishing in our lanes and beaches. We need to collect it ourselves.

Keep Britain Tidy ask volunteers to divide rubbish collected into three categories: ‘plastic’, ‘cans’ and ‘general waste’. I decide to add ‘glass’, wondering how many bottles I will find between 22nd March to 23rd April, the period ear-marked for the Great British Spring Clean.

The diary of a litter picker:

Day 1: Friday 22 March

I register on-line with Keep Britain Tidy and spend 40 minutes cleaning a footpath leading through a smart housing estate on the way back from hospital. I’m appalled by the stinky litter and glad to be wearing rubber gloves. I’ve never found the need for a grabber or gloves when cleaning beaches. Now it is essential. Numerous plastic bags containing dog poo hang off bushes, more lie under shrubs. I notice packets, wrappers, cans and bottles everywhere, amazed at the amount of rubbish lying in private gardens.

Rubbish unopened can

After work, I spend 60 minutes collecting roadside litter from a lane running through the New Forest National Park, taking a pink bucket I once found washed up on the shore as a receptacle for general rubbish. I use a purple one for glass bottles and an orange bucket that soon contains 27 empty alcohol cans. Are motorists drinking whilst driving? I find two unopened cans of Stella, along with a new tube of muscle-relaxant cream, a bike-lock cable and an old milk bottle that had grown into the mossy stream bank. I chatted to BBC Radio Solent, live on air, explaining that I would never have guessed these items were lying by the roadside. They were hidden in the undergrowth, posing a danger to wildlife.

Day 2: Saturday 23 March

I spend 45 minutes collecting an empty 25 litre tub of bleach, a 5 litre tub of French Elf Diesel, a number of bottles and other plastic pollution from a footpath near the Solent shore, taking all I can carry. I use my large purple bucket, which can take broken glass and doesn’t flap about in the wind.

The bucket is easy to lay down while I dig around in the bushes with barbecue tongs. I wonder how old all this stuff is. How long has it been accumulating in the woods? On the way home I stop to pick up an old coat from the verge. It’s been there ages.

Day 3: Sunday 25 March

I spend about 20 minutes collecting fishing net, bottles, and elderly plastic including flip-flops and a neon pink buoy washed up on a small beach, whilst with a journalist and photographer from the Daily Mail. They are staggered by the age of the packets I am collecting. We find a crisp packet that has been sunbathing on the beach for at least eight years.

I show the journalist and photographer rubbish left by a homeless person who was obviously camping in our local nature reserve. How much of this is a reflection of addiction, poor mental health and homelessness in our society?

rubbish net

I take the photographer a short way along the river where I have cleaned the verges repeatedly but feel more needs to be done. We find a can of diesel and a metal wheelbarrow clogging the ditch which needs to be clear to avert flooding.

Day 4: Monday 26 March

It takes 80 minutes to collect rubbish from the Solent foreshore. I take an old friend who is amazed to see how much we find on a section of coast that appears clean at first glance. I effectively give her a demo on how scratchy and time-consuming it can be to extract litter from brambles and blackthorn bushes. With her help, I retrieve 3 glass bottles, 9 plastic bottles, one beer tin, a heavy plastic container, cotton bud stalks, Durex packet, wrappers, polystyrene, gaffer tape, a broken For Sale sign, a domestic scourer, a section of astro turf, fishing rope and micro plastics. It’s a bright sunny day and we enjoy ourselves hugely, encountering wild ponies and sea birds.

Day 5: Tuesday 27 March

Someone commenting on Facebook said: ‘You’re very lucky to have the free time on your hands.’ I am grateful I can get out and about but it’s not as if I don’t work all day. I multi-task. I normally collect rubbish as I walk the dog or go into town. Anyone can collect litter as they walk to work, or school. If we each picked up three pieces a day it would make a huge difference and surely benefit our quality of life.

Today, 20 minutes are spent collecting litter and 30 minutes reporting what I found to the Police. Whilst picking up cans and cartons from the verge in the lane that runs along the river, I spot a leather hold-all behind an electricity substation. I find it open with a large jewellery box inside. Socks – one sign of a break in – are lying near the soaking wet bag.

I ring the Police who ask me to take it home. I’m longing to return to the items to their owner. Some of the sentimental things inside will be retrievable. I think I’d better go down to see if there is anything more and discover a silver-topped HP laptop in the undergrowth. I inevitably collected more litter: total for the day 139 items plus an enormous car bumper. Since the Daily Mail have asked if they can photograph all I find, this is lugged home too. My garden is looking like a scrapyard.

Day 6: Wednesday 27 March

I have a hectic schedule today but pick up a few items as I walk to the railway station. It’s difficult finding somewhere to wash my hands. One person in our town must chuck litter out of their vehicle every day. They knot it neatly in exactly the same way before tossing it into the hedge.

Day 7: Thursday 28 March

I walk along the South Bank in London where rubbish bins are placed every 50 yards. What is litter doing to national morale? Who wants to live in streets strewn with waste? What impact does it have on tourism and jobs? And how can we solve the problem? Insisting on car bins would help.

Total for week one: 325 minutes

rubbish tins

 

 

 

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