ABOUT RURAL LITTER
"We are no longer a green and pleasant land spotted with filthy places.
We are a filthy island in which there is now an occasional oasis of cleanliness."
What's special about rural litterAs environmental problems go, rural litter is a bit of a Cinderella. Few people or organisations are giving it much attention.
Particular issues with rural litter are:
- Because it is not on anyone's doorstep, no one makes too much of a fuss about it.
- Mostly, it doesn't get picked up - few councils litter pick rural lanes on a regular basis.
- Unlike urban litter, it is widely dispersed.
- It's expensive to clear. It can't be swept up by a machine and has to be picked up by hand.
- In a car, above about 30mph, you only see about one third of the litter present, so motorists get the impression there isn't much of a problem.
- The government's strategy of fining litterers has no effect in the Countryside where it is almost impossible to catch anyone in the act.
Councils and rural litterCouncils categorise streets and roads depending on use, likely level of littering and sensitity/profile, and use this to determine the frequency of litter picking. So, for example:
- city/town center streets might be picked once or twice a day;
- residential streets might be picked once every 1-2 weeks;
- main trunk roads might be picked once a year.
What's in rural litterSo, what sort of rubbish is getting dropped in the countryside?
|Here's a typical sack of the stuff. I picked it up from just one mile of a typical rural lane running between the villages of Winstone and Sapperton in the Cotswolds, an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty.||Here it is tipped out. Time to get our hands dirty and sort it out. The photos below show what the heap contained|
|25 plastic drinks bottles - these will take more than 500 years to degrade.||35 drinks cans - these take around 100 years to fully degrade.|
|18 items of fast food litter, of which 9 were from McDonalds.||34 assorted crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers.|
|10 cigarette packets||5 carrier bags|
|Some newspaper, a milk carton, 2 Ribena cartons, plastic food containers, discarded sandwiches in foil, a yoghurt pot||Miscellaneous plastic debris (mostly carrier bags) flailed to bits by hedge/verge cutting.|
|A hub cap and a bit of wing mirror. Nearly every sack of litter I collect has at least one hub cap in it.|
Who's dropping itMy guess is 90% of rural litter is dropped by motorists. The vast majority of litter is found on roadside verges and anywhere cars park. Cyclists or walkers may be responsible for a small fraction of litter, but there are just not enough of them to account for the vast bulk of it.
The problem is that littering from a car is almost entirely guilt and risk free. Just lower the window, chuck it and it's gone. No risk of being caught, no one to remonstrate with you. An ENCAMS survey found that one-third of motorists regularly drop litter from their cars.
|Copyright © Tim Barnes 2008|