Lockdown Litter

One thing I noticed, or I should say, perceived, was that there was less litter about during Lockdown. I put this down to the fact that fast food places were closed and so less fast food wrappings being discarded from vehicles.

Actually, as others had reported, there were actually the occasional carelessly discarded facemask or rubber gloves (which if actively thrown out of a vehicle seems odd since the very things are used for the betterment of health, whereas, litter-making is counter to this since it harms our environment).

With Lockdown restrictions easing and fast-food places being open once more for take-aways/take-outs, I’ve seen a rise in the amount of this sort of litter about, freshly discarded; you can tell it’s fresh when it’s a McDonalds brown paper bag not yet been rained on.

It’s depressing and bothersome for me to see. I don’t quite understand the mentality of someone who lives in the countryside, who has had their freedom to be out restricted, yet when does get to go out more, actively seeks to make a mess of the place. I imagine there is some sort of rejection of the system that lead them to buy and consume the crap of which the wrapping they discarded; the disappointment that it didn’t quite fulfil them as expected leads them to vent their frustration through the physical act of throwing the remnants out the window (this is all unconscious to the dimwits I have little doubt). Cigarettes, beer, energy drinks, mass produced fast food, take away coffee… no one needs this stuff.

I don’t know what to do about any of this; if I’m on foot and almost back at home then I tend to pick up such rubbish, it gives me a sense of pride. In this period of increase in the amount of people out walking, during the “You’re only allowed 1 hour of exercise per day” restrictions* (a spectacle which gradually dwindled as people lost interest in their daily walks, runs or rides, or the weather became less inspiring) I often wondered why others hadn’t picked up the litter they had obviously walked past, and likely did so day-after-day.

*They weren’t really restrictions to most of these people because they were out walking or riding bikes when they wouldn’t normally have been.

  • People often turn a blind eye to litter
  • It isn’t theirs to pick up (or their job)
  • “It could be infected”

Litter doesn’t pick itself up. If I run or cycle past some one day and not pick it up, then it’s only going to irritate me again the next day I come across it.

So, what to do about it? Other than make more of an effort to pick it up myself?

Often I feel like, in addition to stuff dropped accidentally, it’s a particular type of person who chucks rubbish out of a car window; where do you find such people to promote the message of not chucking little? Facebook seems the place to get the word around these days, but I don’t do Facebook. Maybe affix “Bin it” signs to telegraph poles at problem spots? At such spots it often seems like it’s the same people at the same time each week; maybe I could lie in wait, keep a record of which vehicles are passing around that time in order to pinpoint the culprit, find out where they live and collect their discarded waist and go and stuff it under their windscreen wiper or stuff it through their letterbox.

The situation reminds me of an illustration I read of in, I think, I book about the psychology of human nature, in which a man goes into a pub on a busy evening. There’s only one seat left and it’s next to the door. The door is faulty and doesn’t automatically close, so each time someone comes in the door is left ajar and gives the poor man a cold draft; he has to get up a close the door. He perseveres though for a while, rather than raising the issue with a member of staff. Occasionally he calls a person coming in to please close the door. As time goes on and more people come and go he gets more and more irritated with the cold draft and having to repeatedly close the door. Eventually he snaps. One more patron walks in and leaves the door ajar and the man gets up from the seat and has it out with the man in an angry rage “Close the F*in door!….”

The problem here is that one patron got the wrath that had festered with the coming and going with all of the others. Another is that he kept asking each person to close the door; he could had done that all evening. Another option could have been for him to call it a night and go home rather than be in the place by the draughty door. Really, the problem was with the door, or the system, if you will. Maybe none of the patrons had been brought up to close a door behind them, just like our litter-droppers. Litter has always been an issue and a remember it being a topic at school, perhaps during assembly, or when things got bad in the school grounds we had to spend a period with little picking devices, clearing all the mess that had been made by fellow students. I guess some people left school still not having learnt that lesson.


  1. You have talked about a very important issue here. I never understood why people would throw stuff out their car’s window when they could just put it in a bin later.

    Nice read.

  2. I was beginning to wonder where you were! I salute you for picking up litter; I often think about doing it but there’s a giant yuck factor. Mind you I do live in a town so I know it will get picked up eventually

    • Yeah, I had the urge to write about this! Some rural routes here do get tended to by the authorities, so I actively avoid collecting litter from there because 1) it’s busier roads and not so safe to be stopping, and 2) to not cause the authorities to relax their efforts. I don’t pick up yucky stuff, mostly just bottles and cans that I recycle. Thank you for the salute!

  3. You’re looking at Earthians in their corrupt and non-empathetic nature. Their predatory capitalistic system exhorts them to be consumers, not caretakers. Caretaking is for the system and only pays those who own garbage pick up companies or have union jobs. Blaming the makers of cheap containers has been tried and it failed. Blaming the uneducated has been tried and made no dent in the problem. Here they have incentives for locals to “adopt” a piece of street, road or highway and keep the ditches clean – it’s not working either. Who wouldn’t get tired of the BS? My solution has always been to simply let the garbage pile up until it overflows over the highways and into yards and fields, then put up signs saying something like: Is this how you want to live? If so, enjoy the view, and the smell. This is your world. This is you.

    • “consumers, not caretakers” indeed. Incentives often need to come from within. I liken this to the graphic images used on cigarette packets to deter smokers… with little to no effect. With regards to ignoring litter, I liken it however to Philip K. Dick’s “kibble” in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in that it encourages/attracts more.

      • Yes, there’s that other psychological side to the coin. Reminded of the line in Alice’s Restaurant when the goofs are looking for a place to dump their garbage and he says, we saw a pile on the side of a 50 foot cliff and decided that one big pile was better than two little piles so we dumped the garbage… and etc. It seemed funny at the time, that obviously the crime of dumping garbage on the road side was not comparable to joining the military to go kill women and children, using one crime to expose another, not looking at the long term effects of both crimes. People so easily justify certain “small” crimes then wonder why big crimes eventually get overlooked and proliferate. It’s what you make yourself get used to. You think, one bad apple in the box isn’t so bad, all the rest are good ones, so you don’t take it out, and you don’t check its neighbours to see if they’ve been infected. A month later you have a box of stinking rotten apples.

  4. I picture as a fisherman Brian. Have I mentioned this? I’ve been watching numerous British youtubes of brits fishing along the coast. I suspect Wales would be a good place to hunt for wrasse, lobsters and spider crabs.

    • I’ve never been good at fishing. I went a few times with my dad, fishing at lakes or canals; never caught anything, but enjoyed the father-son time, hanging out drinking flasks of tea. I went sea fishing too, out on a boat at Cornwall, others caught way more mackerel than me. I tried crab-fishing too with little success, but it was a fun game in childhood.

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