Holiday Snaps

While visiting family in the US during the recent holiday, I
would be lying if I said that I took a complete break from all my
activities. I still wrote posts for the
MissElaineous blog. I kept the Indian
River by Air
website ticking over (and designed a new storefront). I kept an eye on news that would impact my
day job
.  And I of course kept an eye on
litter.

image

This is a rubbish bin in Venice, Florida, which bills itself as the Sharks’ Tooth Capital of the World.

I’ve already shown images of a few of the posters that
caught my attention, and we went on several rubbish walks and conducted our own #2minutebeachclean. But in general, the amount of litter is far
less than the UK. Depending on the area,
the rubbish ratio can range from 1:10 to 1:20 for the US vs the UK. Some of this is down to the car culture in
the US; people are far less likely to walk and eat or drink on the go, and the
habit of throwing things from car windows just isn’t that entrenched (I’m sure
it does happen, just not with the frequency that it seems to occur in the UK).

image

Heading out on a rubbish walk with Fiona, who supervised.

However, there are some similarities. First, the location: there was a
concentration near a sports field where teenagers tend to congregate. However, the type of litter found here was
small pieces: there were lids but no bottles and corners from opening wrappers
but not the rest of the packaging. I
think some people have a size in their head regarding what constitutes litter:
smaller than a playing card and it doesn’t count. It’s the only way I can explain the number of
“scraps” found on both sides of the Atlantic.

image

A few scraps of litter.

There was also a lot of cigarette-related litter: butts of
course (the number one littered item in the world), but also cellophane
wrapping and cartons. And the ACES of
recycling—Alcohol, Carbonated beverages, Energy drinks, and Sports drinks—cans
and bottles falling into these categories were the most common in the US as
well. Indeed, it gave us the idea for a
new project we hope to unveil soon.

image

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your … legs?”

This visit also reminded me that litter is not the natural
state of things. Littering is a learned
behaviour and it can be unlearned … if enough time, effort, and money is
provided. In speaking with friends who
remember Lady Bird Johnson’s push to Keep America Beautiful, they said it easily
took a decade or two for the changes to really take effect. If you have a chance, read this article about how she was able to make it happen and get an anti-littering message into the country’s consciousness. An annual clean up, without any nationwide
prevention efforts, does not solve anything.
As I’ve mentioned over and over again, cleaning is a good starting
point. However, it should not be the
only point.

image

One or two pieces of litter in this water feature (the red things are flowers) … compare it to the Black Swamp.

Indeed, I also saw two slogans that I may borrow for
Chippenham: “Stow It, Don’t Throw It” and “Who We Are Is What We Leave Behind”.  The latter is from Subaru, and the company is
working towards a Zero-Landfill initiative with the US National Parks.  I recognise that this is a brand trying to
sell products with the green glow of an environmental message, but I think the underlying
point is sound: are we leaving behind beauty—gardens and parks, artistic
endeavours and scientific discoveries, kindness and laughter—or just a mess?

Leave a Comment