I’ve spent much of this week celebrating my birthday and anniversary up in Chester. It’s a lovely historic city: founded by the Romans, still bound by Medieval walls, and with some great examples of black-and-white architecture (for pictures of these, keep an eye on the MissElaineous blog!). The archaeologist part of me was overjoyed to wander through the streets and along the River Dee, but the anti-litter activist saddened: even in such a well-maintained, tourist-focused city, litter was never far away.
This particular photo shows just a few of the cans and plastic bottles that got caught along the riverbank. This is one of the ways the UK contributes to plastic pollution in the ocean: bottles get thrown from bridges or wash into rivers and streams and end up flowing out to sea.
In an ideal world, there would be no litter. People would clean up after themselves without needing constant reminders or threats of fines. They would recognise the problems it causes to our environment in general and wildlife in particular. Rubbish would end up in the bin … and there would be very little rubbish too, with people choosing to use re-usable containers instead of single-use products whenever possible.
But we don’t live in that world. In the real world, deposit schemes have been shown to be an effective way of combatting litter caused by recyclable products like cans and plastic or glass bottles. The UK’s test (and, fingers crossed, eventual adoption) of such a programme cannot come soon enough.
Which finally brings me to this week’s LitterWatch2017 update. If you have been following this little experiment all year, 1) thank you, and 2) you’re probably not surprised to hear that not much as changed. The litter continues to slowly weather as we approach the end of the year (seriously, how did it get to be December already?!), but, with the exception of a piece or two that went MIA in high winds, it’s not disappearing.
The Romans left Chester with an ampitheatre and some columns. Medieval engineers created a stone bridge that is still in use today to carry traffic far heavier than a traditional horse and cart. The Elizabethans knew that black-and-white would always be in style. Is this really how we want future generations to remember our time period: through the mountains of waste we have left behind?