We are now six weeks into the New Year, and most—but not
all—of the litter on display as part of #LitterWatch2017 is starting to look a
bit worn and battered. Some of this is
due to the board previously falling over in storms, but the elements are
starting to have an effect as well: the fading is more noticeable this week,
especially on the crisp packet and McDonald’s fry container, and the cigarette carton without cellophane
is breaking into its component parts. The
napkin is on the edge of its lifespan: 4-6 weeks is often cited as the
decomposition time for paper. As you can
see in the photos, it’s shrinking and shredding in the wind and rain, and
making far more of a mess than if it had been properly disposed of.
Other items continue to look nearly new: the items that
can be easily recycling—the glass bottle, plastic bottles, and aluminium can—are
more or less fine. The plastic carrier
bag, “biodegradable” balloon, and other balloons show no signs of
changing. The cellulose acetate of the
cigarette butts is likewise unchanged.
While this blog—and this particular experiment—is dedicated
to litter, I hope this also serves as a wake-up call for all of the things we throw
away. How long will the packaging that
we use for only a few minutes and discard without a thought actually be hanging
around the planet?