Dissecting Rubbish

In addition to our usual weekend rubbish walks around Chippenham, I also collect rubbish on my evening commute between Chippenham Railway Station and home.  Here’s a look at some of the things found tonight, which are pretty representative of a normal rubbish walk (and human behaviour).

Unlike the previous collections I’ve written about (here and here), I came prepared with a carrier bag and managed to fill it … all in the space of a 15-20 minute walk.

I live near a school, and crisp packets are a common find along the fence.  In this case, four of the five are Walker’s brand, which is pretty standard for a rubbish walk.

The unusual thing about this photo of recyclables is not that the Lucozade bottle is ¾ full, but that there are no Coke products.  On average, Coke makes up about 10% of the total recycling we find.  The energy drinks Red Bull and KX are very common, and milk drinks such as Yazoo and Frijj are also prevalent, especially near schools.  Lucozade is the number one sports drink we find, and it’s not uncommon to find bottles or cans of all drinks that are nearly full (or, in some cases, have never been opened). While I hate litter in all its forms, the casual tossing away of recycling is particularly galling, as all of these products could re-enter the production stream and be used for others things, saving raw materials and cutting down on cost.  And let’s not forget the wasted energy that goes into producing food and beverages that are never used.

This is what would be termed accidental rather than deliberate litter.  Things like this are from a household recycling bin and have either blown out in the stormy weather we’re having, or fell out when tossed into the lorry.  There is an easy way to solve this: people need to take responsibility and pick up in front of their house – just put the recycling back in the box for the next collection.

This isn’t litter per se, although it was found in the middle of the pavement; several other bags had blown to the middle of Malmesbury Road and were unfortunately out of reach.  These likely fell out a distributor’s bag, but in some case (like in Woody Woods), they are dumped.  I think it is a good example of how producers and distributors need to think about how their product can potentially be used.  Yes, collecting for a charity is a good thing – but what happens to the bags after they go through someone’s door or are in a distributor’s hands?

The amount of smoking litter was fairly low compared to normal, but I did not pick up cigarette butts this evening – they are the most littered item in the world.  We regularly find cigarette cartons, Rizla wrappers, cellophane from cartons, roll-up pouches, and of course butts during our walks.  Coffee cup lids (and the associated cups) are also very common. The final item here is from McDonald’s, which is a commonly littered brand.  This particular item was from the drive-through, and some towns have reported a decrease in McDonald’s litter by putting the number plate on the receipt or printed label.  Imagine if there was a way to track down the person who tossed this and fine them … people may think twice before chucking things out!

Getting down to the bits and pieces … what’s noticeable here is the bits that likely came from a child’s lunch, like the Babybel wrapper, or things that were discarded on the way to or from school such as the Maoam wrapper, Cadbury’s corner, and other sweet wrappers.  The EnergyGel is a first, but it’s not the first time that a runner has been associated with litter in Chippenham.  

So what does this dissection tell us? 

  • Litter is everywhere and cuts across all types of people: children, smokers, athletes. 
  • Stopping it is going to require a concerted effort between the brands themselves (money for an advertising campaign perhaps?), parents and educators getting the message across to younger generations, and all of us need to make it clear that littering is not acceptable.
  • Picking up litter is the first step to cleaning up our communities.  

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