There were a lot of problems facing the world even before the pandemic. Just a few, in no particular order …
- Climate change
- Loss of biodiversity
- Food poverty
- Ocean acidification
- Lack of access to mental health treatment
- Coral reef bleaching
- Domestic violence
- Wildlife poaching
- Fuel poverty
- Bullying at school and in the workplace
- Soil depletion
- Racism, sexism, able-ism, and other bigotry
- Air pollution and poor air quality
- Water pollution and poor water quality
And so on. When topics are viewed as a whole, is it any wonder that litter seldom appears as a priority issue? It’s so easy to bump it to the bottom of the list, where it has been languishing for decades.
Of course, the trouble with this approach is that the problem of litter is never actually sorted. Some money is occasionally thrown at it—usually earmarked for buying litter picking equipment—but no steps at all are taken towards long-term planning and prevention: stopping people from littering in the first place. Instead, funding that could otherwise be spent on those bigger problems gets diluted by the necessity of constantly cleaning up after those who can’t be bothered to use a bin.
Early last year I was playing around with ideas about how we could try to move litter up the list and amplify our voices to government to make genuine changes on a national level. Then COVID-19 hit.
I try not to get into politics on this blog because, quite frankly, littering should transcend any political ideology. But, that being said, I don’t see environmental concerns as being a focus for the current government. If the past year is any indication, waiting for top-down guidance and action on litter seems to have just about as much a chance of happening as a mermaid learning to tap dance.
So where does that leave us? Working from the bottom up to bring about changes within our communities.
Will this take time and effort? Yes.
Is it overly optimistic to expect people to be willing to do even more than they’re already doing now? Perhaps.
But what other choices do we have if we want to put a stop to litter? Relying on volunteers to clean up for decades to come is not a solution.
Are you interested in getting involved? The first of every month I’ll be sending out a newsletter to outline what actions we can personally take within our own community to combat litter. There are so many problems facing the planet, shouldn’t we try to tackle the one that is literally in our hands so that we can then focus on everything else?
The first newsletter will be going out on 1st April, which is not an April Fools joke.
Read all of the Putting Litter First series here:
- Layering Anti-Litter Solutions
- April: Who do you know?
- May: Eco-Schools
- June: Corporate responsibility?
- July: Right tools, right information
- August: Littering is an own goal
- September: Training anti-litter behaviour
- October: Butt out
- November: Role models
- December: Raise a glass
- January: What goes up …
- February: Salience at the shops
- March: Getting down to business