As the first Guest Blogger on the new LitterAction blog, it struck me as a good idea to go back to basics and to question why we all do what we do when we get involved in litter-picking. And, while I am pondering this question, I have to say that I feel an overwhelming sense of admiration for all the great work that you and your fellow litter-gatherers do – you are an inspiration to everyone who knows about you and what you do and we here at LitterAction firmly believe that the UK’s litter problem simply won’t get solved unless, like you, we all get involved and play our part.
So – why do we do it ? Well, the obvious answer is that we hate the sight of litter spoiling the look of where we live. That may be the only reason that you pick up litter and, if that’s the case, that’s great. Litter does spoil the look of places and, as CPRE’s President Bill Bryson so aptly says : “this country is beautiful – but only from the ankles up”.
But why else do we go out collecting litter ? Some of us enjoy the physical exercise and the fresh air that we can experience while we litter-pick. Yes – it’s a great way of exercising and also achieving something really valuable at the same time.
Others do it as they want their fellow residents to see that dropping litter isn’t a good idea. By being seen out there picking up other people’s rubbish does indeed get the message across to many that they shouldn’t litter and that pride in one’s area is important. And, of course, litter-picking is a great way to educate young (and not so young) people as to why they should put their rubbish in the bin.
Then there is the issue that “litter leads to more litter”. Keep Britain Tidy’s research has shown that people tend to litter more when there is litter already there, that the presence of litter almost gives people permission to drop more litter. So the logical answer to this is to make sure that we keep our neighbourhood free of litter so that there is no incentive for people to drop
But it’s not only more litter that litter itself attracts. It has also been shown that the presence of litter indicates that no one cares about the area (and, more worryingly, that people don’t care about each other) and so criminals think that they will have an easier time if they focus their efforts on that area. Yes – it has been shown that litter attracts crime to a neighbourhood, so that’s a pretty good reason for keeping one’s area free of litter and so feeling a bit safer.
Finally, there is the social benefit of getting together with your neighbours to clean up your area. So many of you do that and enjoy a cup of tea or a barbeque after your hard work. It is such a valuable and satisfying experience. And one thing that we have found with work that we are doing in some of the less affluent areas of England, that community cleanups really can bring a community together. Have a think about this comment from a resident in east London : “The people I met [on the cleanup] are very friendly and I now know that there are very good people in my area”. Wow – that’s a pretty powerful result from what we may have thought is just a simple local cleanup.
So – whatever your reason for wanting to get together with your friends and your neighbours to clean up your area, good on you !
And do please leave your comments on what your reasons are for litter-picking and keeping your area clean and tidy.