OPINION: Don't be a litter lout! We must keep Britain tidy

Coronavirus garbage. Volunteers collecting used disposable medical masks and gloves near the bus sto

Used facemasks are just one of the things we regularly see discarded on the streets - Helen McDermott says we all need to pick up after ourselves - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Here’s a word of gratitude for our cheerful refuse collectors.

Every fortnight they lug our recycling bin out to their truck and into the grip of the lift on the back.

I always know when they are approaching because our cats can hear them a long way off and run for cover. They hate the screeching whine of the bin lift.

We always stuff the bins to the brim.

Considering there are only the two of us it’s amazing how many recycling items there are in spite of my best efforts to cut down.


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It’s largely newspapers as we get a hefty dose of nationals and locals plus magazines but there’s a lot of cans and bottles and assorted packaging besides.

Lockdown has meant a tremendous increase in stuff delivered in cardboard boxes; a year’s isolation has involved having lots of deliveries instead of nipping out to the shops the way we used to.

My thoughts turned to the subject of rubbish after I heard a plug on the radio for the Great British Spring Clean which invites us to sign up to a “Million Mile Mission” from May 12 until June 13 to help keep Britain tidy and litter-free.

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As we may be emerging from lockdown by then the campaign aims to clear our streets and open spaces of what’s expected to be a huge potential increase in litter as we start to get out more.

In an ideal world we shouldn’t need a 'mission' involving decent folk having to clear up other people’s mess but sadly life just isn’t like that.

Broadcaster Alice Arnold came onto the programme to talk about her personal battle against litter, relating tales of how she’s asked litter louts in the street to pick up their rubbish or throwing litter back into a car from which it had been chucked.

Needless to say, she’s had more than her fair share of verbal abuse from the perpetrators but plucky Ms Arnold persists with her one-woman campaign.

It takes some guts to confront some grubby lout in the street and some might say it’s not worth the aggro.

But littering is ugly and threatening, something we shouldn’t have to put up with. It seems that litter breeds litter; if there’s a pile in a corner somewhere then someone else will feed it with detritus of their own.

Members of Dereham Town Council met recently on Zoom to consider the unsightly mess being made over time in Safari Way, an area of the town named for servicemen in the Second World War.

Why should people living in the vicinity have to put up with it? And this is only one example. Already there are many decent clean-living folk who daily pick other people’s rubbish from our verges and parks. Now they are coping with the new menace of discarded facemasks.

If every person would simply clear up their own mess and take it home we wouldn’t be seeing pictures of stuff that are remnants of picnics or outdoor concerts or trips to the beach.

The other day a bin was blown over by a strong wind in our road, spreading stuff over the front of our house and the next-door neighbours’. It was nobody’s fault but we duly bent to collect the scattered tins, pots and papers and put them back where they belonged.

It was quite revealing to see what had been thrown out, the evidence of healthy eating and shopping and how little there was to dispose of.

As we emerge (hopefully) from this lockdown perhaps we can strengthen our resolve to keep our spaces and places free of litter.

It doesn’t take much, and life will be all the nicer for it.

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