As someone who loves to get outside as much as I can, litter is something that bothers me greatly. Whether I’m in town (read about my visit to Bridgnorth), by the sea or in the countryside, litter – especially plastic waste – is a massive issue. In an attempt to rally the troops and spread the load a little, Jenni and I set the members of our Outdoor Bloggers community a little challenge… to go out for a walk for one hour and collect up all the rubbish they found. The Big Outdoor Bloggers Cleanup was designed to raise awareness of the both the problem of litter being a bit of an eyesore, and the more lasting issue of all the single use plastic people use and then throw out with very little regard for our environment.
I’m sure you all know what a little pick is in essence, but the slight difference here is that each blogger taking part was to count the number of single use plastic items they collected (bottles, carrier bags, straws, cup lids), so we could hand our collective total over to the Meek family and their Kids Against Plastic campaign (was Clear Plastic UK). They are running a campaign to raise the issue of single use plastic and as part of that are aiming to collect 100,000 items, but as a family of four even spending hours and hours collecting bags and bags of bottles, it would take them years to do it alone. And I was so pleased to get involved and help them out.
We set a week long period for everyone to do their cleanup, and in true organiser style, I found I completely ran out of time within that week. So I ended up heading out onto my normal trail this weekend, one day after the cleanup was supposed to finish, to see what I could find.
I had walked just 30 metres from my front door when I came across my first piece of litter; a red Coca Cola can. I don’t live on a main road or even a through road so it was most likely dropped by a pedestrian rather than thrown out of a car. It saddened me as it as this particular item can be recycled very easily, but only if it makes it into the recycling bin. And it didn’t stop there…
I made my way across a recreation field and was surprised to find litter blowing around in the wind. There were bottles and cans and sweet wrappers all over. It’s strange as I walk across the rec often and I haven’t really noticed a litter problem before, but today I did. There are several rubbish bins dotted around the area, come on people, just put it in the bin!
Then onto the trail. I walk along here quite regularly and haven’t noticed that much rubbish about previously, but I didn’t even get a mile along it this time before I had completely filled my massive carrier bag and had to turn back and go home. Twenty minutes is all it took – 20 short minutes and less than a mile to collect SO much rubbish. Ugh, disgusting. I found all kinds of things, but as suspected, mostly single use plastic – including 27 500ml drinks bottles of all types, some with lids on, some with bugs in, some still with half the drink inside (no comments please, I am telling myself it was definitely drink…).
In all I collected 27 small (500ml) single use plastic bottles, a couple of larger 2 litre bottles, and at least 40 other pieces of litter including coffee cup lids, straws, cans, crisp packets, tabacco packets, and a football. Yes, a bright blue football, also plastic.
I noticed that while some of the pieces of litter were fresh – there was a McDonals Apple Pie cardboard sleeve that was very recent as there was no mud on it yet – most of it was very old, muddy, broken, full of water. Plastic waste simply does not vanish, or break down into the mud. It simply sits there, getting dirtier and dirtier. It might get chopped up by the strimmer when the hedges are cut back, but it is still there. And it is so harmful to our wildlife; bugs and small mammals often crawl into a bottle but are unable to get out again, starving or drowning or suffocating inside. And then there are the 100,000 marine creatures that die each year thanks to our plastic habit.
I shall have to go back and get this one when I’ve got some help!
I don’t write this post to say “hey look at me aren’t I good going out on a Saturday when I’m feeling rubbish and it’s mizzly outside to collect up litter from my local trail”. Not at all. It wasn’t the most pleasant thing to do and I did get some odd looks from others as I bent down to pick up the rubbish. Rather, I write it to say – litter, especially the plastic stuff, is a huge problem. We all know that. Put yours in the right kind of bin to give it the best chance possible of being recycled. Or, better still, cut down or stop using single use plastic as much as you can so we don’t have to deal with the problem any more than we do already.
There are a number of plastic waste campaigns about at the moment, it’s easy to get involved. We can all do our part. We must. Let’s clear up this planet of ours, one plastic bottle at a time.
If you are someone who enjoys getting outside and then writing about it online, make sure you sign up to Outdoor Bloggers to find lots of opportunities to meet and engage with like minded people. It’s fun, honest.
If you are also bothered about plastic and litter and the environment and would like to do something similar to this to help make a difference in your local area, just go ahead. Grab a bag (and some gloves) and go. Make sure you let Kids Against Plastic campaign know the total number of plastic items you collect to help them raise even more awareness and get yet more people involved.
Oh and three (yes I know this is a blog and I could edit the number above, but you know…), if you are looking for other ways to reduce the rubbish you create at home, there are some ideas here. Go do! 🙂