It’s a real shame, but England is swimming in litter. Abroad, you could eat off the streets in Switzerland. And in Japan, it’s so unusual to see litter that dog walkers not only carry poop bags, but even little bottles of water to wash the pavement! As well as being unsightly, litter chokes or harms wildlife, and can also be tempting to pets (toxic chocolate wrappers and xylitol gum) and marine wildlife (when plastic falls down drains and goes into the sea, where it breaks into millions of invisible microplastics).
The main types of litter are nearly all the same: sweet wrappers, crisp packets, cigarette butts, plastic packaging, plastic cutlery and straws from fast food restaurant and a few other culprits. So it pays to both create good systems to deposit (or recycle) litter and to deter its use in the first place. Although there are fines (and litter abatement orders for councils that don’t clean up on public land), often you find parks and rivers swimming in litter. Report it to Fix My Street. Some communities don yellow jackets, gloves and sharps boxes, and clean it up if no joy. In the US, an annual clean-up lists unusual things that turn up – from nappies filled with fresh fruit to prosthetic limbs (some volunteers even once found a whole litter of pupplies, all happily adopted to good homes).
Ultimately though, the answer lies in less consumerist mindset and more simple living. Take your own cutlery on a picnic, buy a personal ashtray (to safely extinguish cigarettes until you find a bin), take poop bags on dog walks, and avoid fast food joints that give out plastic disposable packaging. One farmer had a fab idea: put the vehicle registration on receipts, then if they dump the fast food packaging out the window, they get hit with a fine in the post, just like with speeding.
CleanUp Britain is a wonderful organisation (and great supporters of this site!) It has lots of campaigns including one to ask councils to clean up litter before they start mowing grass verges (sending shards of plastic and glass everywhere). They have their own teams of litter pickers, but say this is a bit like ‘mopping up while the taps are running’, until councils get their act together to supply proper litter bins and clean-ups themselves.
how litter is hurting animals
Too Much Trash is a book on how litter is not just an eyesore, but a serious threat to animals and their habitats. We can all work together to keep the planet healthy and clean. Gum on the pavement (which contains pet-lethal xylitol) or banana peels thrown in a ditch – all produce a threat to pets, farm animals and wildlife. They can get injured or trapped in the litter, or eat garbage that makes them sick.
In this book, we discover how garbage ends up on city streets, the wilderness and on farms and in oceans. But around the world, we can find ways to avoid this trash ending up everywhere.