As well as being unsightly, litter chokes or harms wildlife, and also tempts pets and wildlife (toxic chocolate wrappers and xylitol gum). When plastic sweet wrappers, cutlery and straws fall down drains, they break down into microplastics in the sea, and get ingested by marine wildlife. 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. 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). Also read of simple solutions to prevent chewing gum litter. Report local issues at Fix My Street.
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 trash everywhere.
The answer ultimately lies in simple living. Take your own cutlery when travelling, use biodegradable poop bags and avoid fast food joints that serve in disposable packaging. One farmer had a fab idea: put vehicle registration on receiptss. Then if the buyers dump 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 that has lots of campaigns. One asks councils to collect litter before mowing grass verges (which sends shards of plastic and glass everywhere). They have a team of litter pickers, but say this is like ‘mopping up while the taps are running’. Until councils supply proper litter prevention notices and organise better litter clean-ups.
how to drastically reduce your rubbish
According to Greenpeace, the UK dumps around 15 million tons of landfill rubbish each year (the same weight as 100,000 adult blue whales). Landfills are ugly and emit toxic gases from electronic waste and batteries (don’t send them to Africa, this has led to huge health and pollution issues).
No More Rubbish Excuses is a good little guide by the founder of the 2-minute beach clean movement). He asks why so much litter ends up on our streets, and you’ll also learn where rubbish goes when you put it in the bin, and what hapens to plastic, food, clothing, electricals and furniture after you take them to the landfill. The book features lots of 2-minute solutions to drastically reduce your waste.
Devon landfills are now full, with councils looking for new sites. In Dorset, local residents opposed the council trying to put waste into old Portland stone quarries. And anything made with chlorine bleach (paper towels, nappies) emits dioxin (the most toxic chemical on earth) at landfills, which are often at risk of flooding or soil erosion.
The other big ‘rubbish area’ to tackle is food waste. Most people throw away a third of alll food bought, often because supermarkets sell items in bulk or too big (say bread loaves that are nearly always too much for one person before they go mouldy). Salad is another big waste food.
Never feed mouldy/stale/crusty bread to garden birds or waterfowl, as it can choke or harm (including salt that is also toxic to pets and butter, as fat smears on feathers and affects waterproofing and insulation).
innovative ideas to reduce landfill rubbish
The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Austria all have almost zero landfill waste. This is because recycling rates are high (with take-back schemes for bottles) and so there is no need for ‘alternatives’ like incineration (which pollutes local areas, even if it does create energy). Choosing reusable always helps (most gift wrap and Christmas crackers can’t be recycled, due to plastic linings). Other surprising items you can’t recycle are instant porridge sachets (again due to plastic lining) and black plastic bags (recycling machines don’t recognise the colour). Although supermarket bag bins now take most soft plastic, they don’t take clingfilm, so try to find alternatives to keep food fresh (a plate?)
For ‘things you can’t recycle’), order a zero waste bag for doorstep collection from TerraCycle. Or get together in your community and order one-off boxes (some are free sponsored by industry, others work out at around £1 each if you all chip in). These boxes are one-off amnesties to get all rubbish out of your town, once and for all! It’s then sent off to recycle into other items like park benches or industrial materials.
simple solutions to prevent cigarette litter
Cigarette butts are the world’s most common litter, with around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts thrown out each year, but the filters are made from cellulose acetate (a plastic that takes over 10 years to break down and meanwhile leaks toxins into the environment, when butts fall down storm drains). Butts in oceans make up more sea litter than plastic bags and straws, and are often found in the stomachs of marine creatures (birds often feed them to chicks, thinking they are food).
Ballot Bin is a custom ashtray that’s proven to reduce cigarette butt litter by up to 73%. Each bin displays a question and two answers, and smokers vote by putting their butts in the slots underneath their preferred answer. It sounds silly, but it works apparently as it’s more likely for people to use the bins. If it works, why not? It’s working when public litter campaigns have not. Once unlocked, the bins can be removed to empty and clean, and the sign/question can be updated. It’s designed to resist rust and the bonded glass makes it difficult to break. The packaging is made from recycled card.
taketray is one of those little inventions that could save the planet. Cigarette litter is immense worldwide, and not only does it cause unsightly litter, but dropping butts on dry countryside is like a match to paper, and causes forest fires which harm wildlife.
The ashtray has a safety lock to prevent unintentional opening (say by children) and an erasure aid for easy safe extinguishing of the cigarette. It’s the right size for simple one-hand operation and easy to clean. It also lies comfortably in the hand, an ideal size for hand or trouser pockets. It can be used as a portable table ashtray, and is made from recycled material.
For councils and offices, No Butts offers smoking shelters that are specially designed for butts not to fly away in the wind. Made in Dorset, they provide all-year weather protection for smokers, and also discourage smoking at building entrances and other undesirable locations, and this can minimise risk of fire by discarded butts.
Smokey Treats use filters made from unbleached wood pulp, unbleached paper and with compostable outer wrap. Presently sold in Germany and South Africa, but soon elsewhere. Greenbutts make biodegradable cigarette filters that compost within days.