SOMETIMES I admire sheer audacity. The sort that wallops you in the chops with its absolute disregard for social norms, politeness or care for others.
The audacity of littering, there’s nothing grudgingly admirable about it.
I’m not talking about fly tipping. Fly tipping at least requires a bit of effort and a smidge of forward planning. You have to pick your rubbish up, in some cases arrange vehicle transport, and plan where to leave it.
You see some spectacular fly tipping around Glasgow and, I would assume, every other nook and cranny of Scotland. Glasgow City Council has started charging for bulky waste uplifts so we’ll see how that affects the levels of fly tipping.
Fines for the offence are always low because it’s so difficult to prove who’s done the dumping – people get away with it, so they do it.
But I’m talking about low level, pathetic, so lazy-I’m-amazed-you-made-it-out-your-bed, rank disgusting litter dropping.
Is it me, or is it getting worse? Is it perhaps because there have been fewer people on the streets during lockdown so now we’re emerging from our burrows, our litter is coming with us? Or is the problem increasing?
I live near a fast food drive through and drivers seem to prefer to eat their meals in the car park at my flat, rather than in the car park at the restaurant. They then just pitch their rubbish out the car window, which is a spectacular pick given the wide array of street bins, wheelie bins and Taylor bins to choose from. Not to mention having an ENTIRE VEHICLE as a potential receptacle to store their waste in.
I noticed recently someone had painted a line along the pavement with helpful arrows, pointing the way to the nearest street bin. You can really feel the rage and despair of someone who’s using graffiti to tackle litter.
Some drivers open the car door and sit the empty food bag and their half finished drinks on the pavement, which is a belter. Speaking of which, four times in the past week I’ve seen folk chuck rubbish out of moving vehicles. When did this become a thing? A drinks can came flying out of the passenger side of a car, two drivers flicked cigarette butts out their vehicles and one person, trying to be discrete, opened the car door at traffic lights on the Byres Road and sat their litter on the ground.
You can’t move through the city without tripping on the results of this foul behaviour. There’s a lot to be said about cleansing cuts and bin schedules in the city. A lot.
But there’s no excuse for littering in the streets. Even if there isn’t a street bin nearby, put your rubbish in your bag or your pocket. Hang on to it until you get home. Who are these people whose never learned to show some respect for their surroundings? Who are these adults who think that someone else will pick up after them?
Infuriatingly, they think someone will pick up after them because someone does.
I’m cat sitting at the moment, living in the flat with the cats and the owners have two green plastic contraptions. Round, with a handle.
An old school friend was over for a visit and I said, “I think those are for pilates”. She snorted. “Those are for holding bin bags.” A handy hoop, apparently.
But how did she know? Well, it turns out my friend goes out litter picking at weekends, walking along the River Kelvin through the west end – using leisure time for exercise, sight seeing and clearing up. She’s not long moved to Glasgow after years overseas and the litter, everywhere, has taken her aback.
So she’s rolled up her sleeves.
A cursory look at any of the community Facebook pages shows that she’s very far from the only one. Residents across the city are out in force trying to undo the mess of their fellow citizens.
There are organised groups volunteering at weekends to clear the streets. You can applaud the civic mindedness of this while also being livid that people are using their free time to nanny their dirty neighbours.
Friends went to visit Loch Lomond last week and had to pick their way through inches of discarded detritus to reach the shore. Food waste, used nappies, used beach towels. Just dumped for someone else to deal with.
It should go without saying that it’s not alright to drop your crap in the street yet somehow that message doesn’t penetrate. Some 15,000 tonnes of litter is dropped in Scotland each year, and think of how much of that should be recycled but isn’t.
When will we reach tipping point? The surest way to cut down littering is to cut the amount of waste we produce – say, increasing the use of reusable coffee cups or creating an alternative method of wrapping carry out food.
But until waste is eradicated at source, it looks like we’ll have to keep relying on decent citizens clearing up after bad. So thank you to the community groups, the Facebook pages, the individuals with a conscience – you’re appreciated.