Weekend Round Up

Picking up (at least) one piece of litter a day for the month of May has continued …

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Litter giving you a headache? It certainly raises my blood pressure!

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A bag caught running wild and free down the Chippenham High Street …

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… and a deceased Capri Sun.

Something else spotted this weekend in Chippenham was the use of  Sainsbury’s car park as a bin. These photos were taken around noon on Saturday and I am assuming the rubbish was from Friday night. Most, if not all, of the litter comes from local takeaways, and this brings up one of the points we would like to see done as part of our Clean Up Chippenham campaign: takeways should label their containers. At present, small shops have a much greater degree of anonymity compared to big brands, but a simple label would allow us to see where the rubbish is coming from and to draw up a plan for tackling it.

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Because–and it cannot be stressed enough–shops, takeaways, and big brands do not cause the vast majority of litter that we find (with one of two exceptions as discussed here).  It is the consumers who cannot be bothered to find a bin or bring rubbish home.  This is where our action should be directed, and knowing who the audience is makes it easier to design interventions to reach them.

My frustration with shops stems from the “it’s not my job” attitude that is common involving anything to do with litter.  In the case of stores, takeaways, etc., you can almost hear the excuses now: It’s outside. It’s not “their” rubbish.  They didn’t cause it. Yet by law, businesses are supposed to keep 100 meters of their premises tidy.  This shouldn’t mean one clean up a day/week/month or whatever schedule is currently followed, but a proactive approach to keeping litter at bay.

Why is this so important?  First, it makes the business look better–after all, who wants to wade through rubbish to go shopping or grab a bite to eat?  Second, it’s the message that it sends: not only is littering not tolerated, but it is no longer left as an example of behaviour to be emulated. There is a caveat to this that I unfortunately do not have an answer for: paradoxically, areas that are known to be cleaned on a regular basis tend to get more litter because people know it will be picked up. 

Changing the current attitude towards waste and breaking the litter habit is going to be tough.  But if everyone pitches in–individuals, schools, businesses, government–and presents a united front, we stand a chance of actually making a difference.

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