This is a column that has been playing on my mind for many weeks now. I simply have to get it off my chest.
One thing that always struck me whenever I flew back to the UK after months on the road was just how beautiful and clean everything was. The drive home from Aberdeen airport to Inverurie was a sea of green and made me smile.
Russia and Palestine are two of the worst places I have ever seen for blatant disregard for the environment. It is so sad to walk around a forest in provincial Russia and see countless discarded vodka bottles and beer cans.
In Palestine, the so-called Holy Land that people claim to love and fight and die for, is used by many as one big garbage dump. Tons of discarded plastic bottles and wrappers litter the countryside, choking olive trees.
“Thankfully, we don’t have this problem where I live,” I’ve said on numerous occasions.
I am deeply saddened to say that now, we do.
My concern for years has been recycling. In fact, I’ve written about it, and even said that recycling is not the answer. We need to stop producing millions of tons of useless throw-away plastic junk in the first place.
But never in a million years did I think that in 2021 I would be writing about the state of rubbish thrown away on our streets, and worse – in nature.
It seems we have regressed. And if we are not careful and nip this in the bud ASAP, we will regress even further and end up like some of the countries I visit.
Walking around Inverurie, countless bushes and shrubs, on closer inspection, are jammed full of discarded plastic. Even outside some shops where a bin is clearly present, some chose to not even use that.
Weather permitting, every morning I cycle around Inverurie and then through Ury Riverside Park. In a month or so, it will be teeming with wildlife and wildflowers. Sadly, all I see now is discarded rubbish.
The photo you see here is of rubbish I collected at 7.30am one morning at Ury Riverside Park, earlier this week. I couldn’t carry any more.
As I write this column, I have just returned from my morning bike run, but forgot to take my small rucksack so wasn’t able to pick up. Today, I saw three Irn-Bru bottles, a beer can, two crisp packets, one Covid mask and various chocolate bar wrappers.
What is wrong with people?
The A96 is a major road going all the way from Inverness to Aberdeen. The stretch from around Inverurie to Aberdeen is disgusting. I took those photos you see here only days ago. It goes on for mile after mile after mile. I have never seen anything like this before.
Apart from juice and water bottles, the biggest culprit is takeaway plastic cartons. It seems people drive to Aberdeen to pick up their takeaways, eat it whilst driving home, then fling it out the car window. Believe me, it is everywhere.
Look, I am not naïve. I’m sure there are individuals who have always done this and always will do. But nothing like on the scale I am now seeing. Something has changed in the mentality of many. What is going on? What has gone wrong?
I stopped my car early one morning, got out and took photos of countless individual items. A sea of choking trash.
On a slip road between Inverurie and Kintore, on the grass verge, I spied a shampoo bottle. On investigating, I saw a nearby half-empty bin bag that had been ripped open by I’d guess gulls. So, it seems that people are also throwing their household waste out car windows.
What is the mentality of someone who puts plastic shampoo, milk and shower gel bottles into a plastic bag, then takes it in their car, drives out on to a main road then flings it out the window?
I genuinely am at a loss to understand this.
“The council should clean it up,” someone said to me the other day. “That’s what we pay our taxes for.”
Correct, they should, but that’s missing the point. It’s not their fault. We have to stop this from happening in the first place. But how? In 2021, do we really need to educate people not to do this? It seems we do. I can’t believe it.
And this can’t just be kids. It is adults. Adults drive cars. Along dual carriageways, that’s adults throwing things out of car windows. If you don’t believe me, go for a drive along this stretch of road and take a close look.
Bennachie is a series of hills close to Inverurie. A beauty spot no doubt. I’ve been climbing it for decades. Sadly, I have picked up more rubbish on my last walk there than I have seen on that hill in years. It used to be pristine.
Last Sunday morning at 9am, on the way down, I picked up the following, all just flung away on this stunningly beautiful hill. A crisp packet, two plastic bottles of water, a disposable coffee cup, a carton of juice, a large empty plastic bag and two discarded bags of dog poo.
Now, on to the subject of dog poo…
I am a dog lover and have been walking my four-legged friends all my life. It would never cross my mind to leave a poo on the street. Even if I didn’t have a bag on me, I would kick it into the gutter at least. But as for the following, well I am gobsmacked at what a growing number of dog owners now do.
They make the effort to buy poo bags, well done. They then make the effort to drive their dog to a local nature spot, presumably because they think it beautiful and peaceful. They then make the effort to pick up the poo, again well done. But do they take it home to dispose of properly? No, they dump it at the side of the path or toss it into the woods.
Why? Why do people do this? I just don’t get it. Am I missing something? Please tell me if I am.
Even worse, some people hang these dog poo bags from tree branches. Why? Is it cool? Is it funny? Is it… Oh hell, I don’t know. Can anyone enlighten me? Can someone please explain me to the mentality of this behaviour?
Part of me would like to actually be present when someone does this. I’d like to ask them why. What is the purpose? Do they really think it’s acceptable to hang dog poo from trees?
Having said that, I don’t want the above to happen, for there would be an almighty row, as I know I would not be able to keep the head.
What do they think will happen to this poo bag? Ah I get it, how silly of me… the dog poo fairy will come in the night and magically take it all away.
Surely it can’t just be me who has spotted all this mess the past year, especially the rubbish thrown out of car windows?
“Oh, it’s lockdown.”
That’s what some have told me recently. It’s because of lockdown and people are depressed.
Really? I mean really? What utter nonsense. No excuse.
Just because you are fed up, lost your job even, you think it justifies flinging the plastic containers from your takeaway meal out the car window?
I’ve been stuck at my parents’ house since before Christmas, not able to go anywhere abroad for work. It has not been the most exciting five months of my life. But yeah, I know what will cheer me up, I’ll buy some takeaway food, then go for a drive into nature, eat it, then fling the plastic out the car window. And of course, you can’t blame me, because I’m so depressed due to lockdown!
Of course, I’m not allowed to swear in my columns. I never have a desire to do so, for there are almost always better ways to express oneself. That said, oh, I just wish, this once, that I was allowed to have swear words printed, because if so, I’d really let rip over all this.
A growing number of people just don’t seem to give a damn. They really have no idea how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
Interviewing people in countries such as Kosovo, Iraq, Russia and Ukraine, about hatred and violence has been my work for many years. It’s fascinating but can and does get to me.
However, witnessing, photographing and writing about what I’ve seen here in once beautiful rural Aberdeenshire, has depressed me way more than interviewing Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.
PS – I have sent this column to Aberdeenshire Council.
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