I went for a walk in the wood opposite yesterday (that's the wood opposite this house, there isn't one opposite this blog). The ground cover is starting to green up with the brambles creeping through and the bluebell leaves beginning to flourish. As you can see from the picture, the wood anemones are flowering and by next week there should be a few more carpets of these lovely little flowers. As you can also see, there's an unwanted foreign import. These pests have been complementing our local flora since their introduction in Powis Street, Woolwich in October 1974. They joined the earlier American invader who began spreading chicken bones and other rubbish from Preston in 1965.
When KFC opened a branch in Beaver Road, Ashford in the early 70s, everyone thought it was rather fun. Except us. Not because we had anything against the novelty nourishment, we had other concerns. We were about ten minutes away from the "restaurant", just the right amount of time for the passenger in any car heading out of town to have finished his or her "meal". They'd then gather the driver's rubbish together with their own and wing it out of the passenger's window. Our total frontage here is over a quarter of a mile because we're on a crossroads and have a couple of fields and over the years my parents must have picked up tons of American themed shit from their hedgerows and inside the fields. Just last Sunday I picked up a bag containing the rubbish from a Big Mac Meal that had blown right across the bottom orchard and every day there are new Coke cans and plastic bottles dumped. It's never ending. Admittedly, the above picture was contrived but only in that I picked the box up from a couple of yards away and placed it on the anemones. I could easily have picked up a cardboard beaker as well as three plastic bottles and two fag packets, all within a 10 yard radius and 50 yards into the woods. Who took it down there to dump instead of taking it home? This stuff gets everywhere.
Traditional English fast food came wrapped in a couple of sheets of newsprint that could be screwed up and thrown in the bin but even that's changing with thick cardboard or styrofoam boxes being increasingly used. Why? My last paid employment was with a company that supplied some of the largest fast food chains with a lot of their equipment and consumables. Believe me, those boxes and bags take up a great deal of weight and space compared with good old newsprint and it really coloured my attitude towards those places that use them. I don't think many people have a single idea about the amount of waste created by a restaurant meal compared to a home cooked one. And that waste has to get to the restaurant in the first place, don't forget. Paper plates, napkins or cardboard ramekins for your dips originating halfway round the world and then dumped in a hedge after 10 minutes of use is not environmentally friendly by any stretch of the imagination.
Even the dustpans and brushes used in some franchises are flown in from the US in bloody great cardboard boxes because all their restaurants have to conform (and not only US either. There's a well known UK pub chain that uses the same equipment) . I was becoming increasingly annoyed that I was part of that waste cycle and despite the fact that I desperately needed the money, it contributed heavily to my leaving the job because I do actually have certain scruples. That picture above was a case in point: the American chicken chain gets its cleaning products from Belgium. One day we had a pallet delivered on an articulated lorry with two boxes of test strips on, each one smaller than a pack of playing cards. It could have been posted in a jiffy bag or put on one of the other two pallets we had delivered at the same time or even, heaven forfend, sourced from a UK supplier. Before I arrived, apparently one box was delivered in a similar fashion. Arse numbingly stupid. We re-used the pallet but the heat-wrap ended up in landfill. And these companies apparently display an awareness of green issues!
Yes it's nice to eat out or grab a takeaway occasionally but please stop and think sometimes. Say no to extra bags and wrappings if it's totally uneccessary and think twice about using those stupid styrofoam boxes. If cattle, sheep or horses inadvertently eat a piece of discarded foam from a discarded box and it gets stuck, it doesn't show up on x-rays. Better still, just walk out of those establishments that use them. If they ask, tell them why you're not buying anything there. They might change if they feel their profits are at risk. I was sorely tempted to pick up all the McDonalds detritus from our frontage, get a hack from the local paper with a camera and dump it all on the floor of the Ashford restuarant and shout "Yours, you pick it up" but I'm a coward and didn't fancy getting arrested for littering when it wasn't me doing it in the first place.
Towns invariably have street cleaners so if your town is still full of rubbish they're overworked, not lazy. The rubbish shouldn't be there in the first place. Nothing of the sort out here in the sticks. Not many pavements and anyway, it's counterproductive as the council invariably has to employ a lookout to warn of approaching traffic while the other worker scrabbles around in the verge or ditch so you can bet your life the local twat with nothing better to do will start complaining to the local paper about his council tax being wasted. Wouldn't be a problem if the twat had educated his kids properly about dropping litter in the first place of course. I still feel guilty about bits of washed bus ticket falling out of my pocket and will always look for a bin, often to the amused bemusement of onlookers. If I can't find one, it goes home with me (or more accurately, as Sharon
will no doubt remind me, it stays in the car until I drive past a recycling centre or remember to empty it).
Let's face it, we're a lazy bunch of sods. Most of us are content to ignore litter because someone's paid to pick it up. Then there are the other annoying bastards who whinge that they don't have to pick it up because they didn't drop it. Oh, please. These are the same idiots who complain that they ought to have their council tax reduced because they don't have any children at school then whine because they can't get a qualified mechanic or a kid who can't add up properly short changes them. They always want something for nothing. What's obvious is that if somebody doesn't pick it up, the countryside just becomes a mess. One person has had enough of waiting for others to do it and decided to start a campaign to get everyone to do it, regardless of whether they've dropped it in the first place. People Clearing Litter
it's called and it's the idea of Steve McCormack. He was on the wireless yesterday explaining it to Jeremy Vine. Yes, yes we could just do it ourselves without publicity but would we? We love to be part of the herd and it's that being part of a popular movement that Steve is counting on to drive his initiative forward. If that's what it takes to raise awareness then so be it. It shouldn't be so, of course. We like to think of ourselves as an intelligent species but it's quite obvious that we're not, otherwise we wouldn't live in such a mess. Maybe, just maybe, if someone drops litter and spots a complete stranger picking it up then the shame factor will kick in. We won't really know unless we give it a go. Sharon will tell you about what they do in Norway; I've forgotten what they call it (I asked yesterday but forgot to write it down) but every so often, the local neighbourhood gets together and has a tidy up. Then afterwards they'll all have a barbecue and a bit of fun together. They share the responsibility for their community and thereby keep a community spirit going. Perhaps we could start something similar over here: have a clear up and then barbecue the local drive-thru, just like the French used to do.