It All Adds Up

[ See photos from the Off the Ground Great British Spring Clean ]

The recycling count is in from the recent Great British Spring Clean at Monkton Park: 106 glass bottles were found, 162 plastic bottles, and 231 aluminium cans. That’s 499 pieces of rubbish that could be recycled. At 10p an item with a Deposit Return Scheme, that would be a hair under £50.00: not bad for two hours work!

The breakdown for these items is:

  • Alcohol: 39%
  • Carbonated Beverages: 14%
  • Energy Drinks: 9%
  • Fruit Drinks: 6%
  • Milk Drinks: 3%
  • Sports Drinks: 3%
  • Water: 3%
  • Other: 6%
  • Unknown: 15%

Some of the big names in littered alcohol include Carlsberg with 20 items, Strongbow with 19, and Tesco-branded beverages at 14. However, the most littered alcoholic drink was Stella Artois, with 42 items. 

It’s probably not a surprise to learn that Coca-Cola took the crown for most littered carbonated drink with 26 items, and Pepsi trailed with 14. For energy drinks, Red Bull and Monster were close, with 14 and 12 items, respectively.

The littered own-brand products from local supermarkets are logical based on Monkton Park’s location. Being between two Tescos means that it was the most prevalent own-brand found, with a total of 21 items, and Sainsbury’s came in second at 8 items.

Why do we bother to take the time to record all of this? It’s not just because we like statistics! Instead, this data helps find potential solutions. For example, because alcoholic beverages are the biggest contributor to littered recycling, could a campaign be developed that is deployed in the alcohol aisle of stores?

  • Drink responsibly. Dispose responsibly. Save £150 by recycling your bottles and cans.
  • Recycling pairs nicely with red, white, and rosé. Or anything really.
  • And so on …

Or can supermarkets and places that sell convenience food target their customers as they’re leaving with a reminder that littering has an on-the-spot fine attached to it? Imagine for a moment if all shops that sell sandwich meal deals—supermarkets, Wilko’s, Boots, petrol stations, etc.—blanketed their refrigerators with signs advising consumers to dispose of their rubbish at home or in a bin to avoid being fined. If every time someone reached for their BLT, bag of crisps, and a drink, they would be reminded that it is not someone’s job to clean up after them.

This isn’t impossible or a mere pipe dream: when the 5p carrier bag fee was introduced, each shop displayed notices telling customers about the change, stating what the new normal would be. Why shouldn’t the same thing be tried in an attempt to tackle litter? If we are serious about actually reducing litter—to stop it from occurring in the first place—we must focus on both the people and the packaging before it becomes rubbish. 

[ See photos from the Off the Ground Great British Spring Clean ]

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