I don’t even open my laptop on Sundays. No emails, no writing related work, no internet in fact. It’s my brain’s day off.
I got up at 6am on Monday, sat at my desk with my first cup of the black liquid gold, turned on the radio to the Today Programme and opened my work emails.
I was gobsmacked.
I’ve never seen so many emails relating to one single subject.
I’m talking about last week’s column on discarded rubbish. My biggest post bag ever.
And I’m not talking about one-line emails from readers saying you either liked or disliked my column. I received page after page of stories of your own experiences with litter, and photos. If I haven’t replied to you yet, I will, bear with me, I’m still ploughing through them all.
Another week, more rubbish. The photos you see here I took in a one-mile stretch from our house in once beautiful Inverurie. I could publish a book of the photos I have.
However, this is most definitely NOT just a problem in and around Inverurie. Sadly, it is everywhere. Therefore, I cancelled my plans for this week’s column. Instead, and due entirely to your feedback, I felt the need to write another column on this subject. It is obviously of huge importance to many of you. I feel I just can’t write about it once and simply leave it there.
Here is just a sample of what readers have had to say on the subject.
Graham wrote: “When heading for work most mornings, but especially weekends, the amount of discarded food containers, plastic bottles, drink cans that are left… is unbelievable.”
JA told me that he and his wife have picked up more than 20 bags of litter in and around their village near Banff.
Jenny told me that she was appalled at the litter between Fraserburgh and Nairn.
Alastair told me that he was disgusted by the behaviour of disturbingly large numbers of the public, littering all over the place.
Stewart worries that proposed restrictions on home bin collections are only going to add to the dumping of rubbish. He has a very valid point there.
John goes on to say that due to discarded rubbish he finds it: “Ironic that people are being advised that walking in the countryside helps mental health; well at the moment I find it has the opposite effect!” Agreed John.
Diana sent me a disgusting photo of a huge abandoned plastic container full of paint pots, in her up-until-recently attractive part of the world.
Mary told me that she was absolutely disgusted when she stopped at a lay-by in Dalwhinnie to have some lunch and was faced with so much discarded rubbish. “I have never seen so many plastic bottles littering the side of the road… people have no respect for our beautiful countryside.”
R&K told me that: “Until we get rid of the ‘once used plastic’ we are kidding ourselves about saving the planet.” I could not agree more and have written about such previously.
Jean, from Sutherland, told me the following: “A group of women from the same village, as a charity money-raising task, cleared roadside litter from the A9 over a seven-mile stretch and filled 120 sacks with mostly plastic bottles, cans, crisp bags and take-away trays and assorted random stuff.”
Meanwhile Barbara wrote to say that she and her husband did six two-hour sessions of picking up rubbish near where they live. They filled eight bags per session. She also mentioned that she counted 75 dog poo bags on one bush.
Many readers suggested that councils should employ litter wardens with the power to impose fines. I believe we may actually have this already. Doesn’t seem to be working though, does it?
I could go on and on and on. So many emails, so much despair from residents all over Scotland.
The over-riding message from readers is frustration that a growing number of people just do not have any pride anymore in the area where they live.
Finally, one reader brought up a rather disturbing thought. With a large percentage of items thrown out of car windows being beer cans, are people actually drinking and driving? I’d never previously considered that. Now I do, and it’s a scary thought.
How to tackle this problem?
Let me again make it clear, it is not any council’s fault. They do not throw away this junk. That said, they have got to do more to collect it on a regular basis.
Glass recycling bottle banks have been removed from Harlaw Road, Inverurie. Why? They were used constantly by residents. Now? See my photo of broken bottles left on the pavement just metres from where the bottle banks used to be. Why, have the council removed these bottle banks?
More bins are also needed. In laybys on the A96, often there is no bin at all. Or if there is, it is so full that folk then dump their trash.
But of course, none of this will stop idiots, adult idiots, from tossing entire bags of plastic out of car windows. How we solve that, I do not know. Education, I guess. But where to start?
Should fast-food firms have a responsibility here? Should they in fact be forced to help pick up the cleaning bill?
I accept, it’s not them who throw away the rubbish. If I dump, say, a washing machine at a layby near a beauty spot, why should the manufacturer be fined? They shouldn’t. It’s me that should be. However, with fast food, I think it’s different. With drive-throughs, they are encouraging people to eat in their cars.
One reader, Jane, came up with the following suggestion. She said to me: “All drive-in/take-away fast-food places should write the number plate of the vehicle on the outside of the bag. Again, not a solution, but at least this would encourage many more to take it home. Discarded bags would gain an automatic fine to the car owner.”
It would no doubt take some doing, but this idea really interests me.
I can’t remember the actual channel, but the other week I saw a programme called Filthy Britain SOS. It followed the working of council guys in England whose job is to catch fly tippers. They set up CCTV in notorious black spots, get their man, then fine them. Hundreds of pounds. Food for thought.
Can the police get involved here? Especially when it comes to the possibility of people drink driving as they throw beer bottles out of car windows, as the evidence seems to suggest. Or do you think they have better things to do? Probably yes, but…
Should schools be forced to run programmes on litter and recycling? Maybe they already do so, I don’t know. It needs to be not just primary schools though, secondary also. But how to educate adults who throw entire bags of take-away junk out of car windows? I have no idea.
One reader even told me that she came across thrown-away burst bags that included soiled nappies.
I despair, I really do.
What can we as individuals do? Take photos of all the discarded junk you see and send them to your local council. Bombard them with these photos. Also, write to your MP or MSP. Nothing will happen if we do nothing, but people power can change almost anything.
I sent last week’s column to Aberdeenshire Council before it went to print. I asked to chat to someone about this problem. I was told my details would be passed on.
I will send this column, and last week’s, to council’s all over Scotland.
Let’s see if anyone finds it important enough to get in touch and discuss.
To contact George directly about any of his columns, email firstname.lastname@example.org