#LitterWatch2017: Week 26

Photos were taken on schedule yesterday, but I haven’t had a chance until today to sit and write about #LitterWatch2017 as it hits the six-month mark.

First, the year can slow down just a bit, thank you very much. I put the board out on New Year’s Day, which doesn’t seem very long ago, but here we are at the beginning of July, with most of the rubbish hanging in there. Second, here’s a detailed look at what’s happened to the litter so far:

  • Water Bottle: The bottle lost its label and is a bit crinkled around the edges from the board getting blown over in the wind, but is otherwise holding steady. This is a good example of how one piece of litter can produce three: the label, the lid, and the bottle itself.
  • Paper Napkin: The paper napkin was the first (and technically only) of rubbish to be deliberately removed from the board since it had been shredded into many smaller pieces in the wind. This took approximately 7 weeks.
  • Sandwich Wrapper: The Subway wrapper is a type of waxed paper and hasn’t changed much over the past six months. It has shrunk a little in the constant cycle of getting wet then drying, but is still more or less the same as when it was added.
  • Fry Container: This cardboard container has faded in the sun and is beginning to warp as it gets wet and dries. However, its original purpose is still recognizable.
  • Coffee Cup / Lid: These were separated after a few weeks because the cup swelled when wet, causing the lid to constantly fall off. The lid has some cracks, caused more by the board falling than weather. The cup is fading and worn, but shows no sign of disintegrating.
  • Crisp Packet: Missing in Action. This piece has blown off and become accidental litter. It may reappear once the hedges drop their leaves in the winter.
  • Cigarette Cartons: Both pieces have swollen in the rain, but the one without cellophane has completely burst open.
  • Tobacco Pouch: No change; this piece look just about the same as it did on 1st January.
  • Cigarettes: While two of the complete cigarettes got knocked off when the board toppled, the others are holding tight and the butts are more or less unchanged. Filters are made of a plastic material, not paper, so it’s no surprise that they haven’t been affected by the weather.
  • Cup / Lid / Straw: Like the coffee cup, these were separated a few weeks after the start since the lid kept falling off. The cup is a bit worse for wear due to the board falling over, but the lid and straw haven’t changed much.
  • Carrier Bag: Even I’m surprised that the carrier bag hasn’t shown any sign of changing yet. I expected that it would become more brittle in the sun, but right now it’s basically the same as when it started.
  • Balloons: The same cannot be said for the orange and yellow balloons. These have turned into two pieces and at present look a bit like Dali’s watches, droopy and without shape. Their texture has changed during their time outside and I expect them to potentially break into smaller pieces over time.
  • Receipt: This coated paper is completely illegible now, but shows no sign of disintegrating.
  • “Biodegradeable” Balloon: This is a dove-shaped balloon I purchased on eBay that claimed it was perfect for weddings, christenings, remembrance ceremonies, and other special events because it would practically vanish after release. There are MANY similar listings that claim that the balloons biodegrade in a few weeks. This particular balloon has not changed in any noticeable way in six months: please please please don’t buy the green-washing of the balloon industry–don’t participate in balloon (or sky lantern) releases.
  • Coke Can: Bit crushed by gravity and starting to fade in the sun, but more or less unchanged. If you want to run your own LitterWatch experiment, make sure you board is out of the wind!
  • Sweet Package: This packaging has faded considerably over six months, but is still structurally sound.
  • Paper Takeaway Container: This is looking a bit droopy, but is surprisingly robust considering it’s paper.
  • Polystyrene Takeaway Container: No change.
  • Lucozade Bottle: No change.
  • Sandwich Carton: Considerably faded and looking rather worse for wear, but the container itself is not falling apart.
  • Glass Bottle: No change to the bottle; slight fading to the label.

As discussed in the initial blog post that kicked off LItterWatch2017, this is not exactly the most scientifically rigorous of experiments. Results are likely to differ if the rubbish were placed on the soil or buried or, as is common with litter, left under a hedge. However, I think it has shown that, unless we take active steps against it, litter will be with us for a very long time.

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