I had a litter picker for my birthday – the grabber thing that means you don’t have to bend down to pick things up. It’s not a sign of premature ageing (I’m still in my late youth, you know), but Ms Markontour had noted the rising frequency with which I come through the front door grumbling about all the mess in our street and decided to provide me with the means to do something about it. Today I tried it out for the first time and now Bakers Avenue is going to win Britain’s Cleanest Street!
It took me about fifteen minutes to tidy up our cul-de-sac and I completely filled a wheelie bin with recycling along the way. About two thirds of the rubbish was drink cans and plastic water bottles. That was to be expected – Britons chuck away 5 billion cans each year, most of which are filled with liquids that rot our teeth and bloat us up with unnecessary calories. The average British child aged five to nine gets through £100 of carbonated drinks a year, about three times the amount of our near neighbour, France. Only the Americans surpass us in their addiction to sugary drinks, and children in the States get fully twenty per cent of their calories from sugars in general.*
I was surprised, however, that almost half of the cans I grabbed were high energy drinks. Are Red Bull drinkers disproportionately inclined to be litter bugs, or is consumption of these highly caffeinated beverages really that high?
There weren’t anywhere near as many plastic bags as there would have been before the plastic bag tax was introduced in 2015. I hope the government notes the success of the policy and extends the 5 pence per bag charge to all retailers. It was noticeable that in my haul nearly all the bags were the cheap blue ones handed out by small convenience stores.
While I was pottering about in the street I had conversations with two neighbours to whom I have never previously spoken, along with a nice chat with the lovely people who run the organic fruit and veg stall at the end of the road on a Saturday. Litter picking is good for getting to know people, it seems.
Ms Markontour is worried that I am turning into the curmudgeonly lead character from A Man Called Ove. The eponymous hero of this life-affirming tear-jerker starts every day by doing ‘his rounds’ of the local neighbourhood, shutting gates, barking at neighbours for parking their cars badly and, yes, picking up litter. I don’t think I’ll go that far. Not yet. But I was singing along to Half Man Half Biscuit’s ‘What’s Chatteris‘ as I went about my work this afternoon and maybe our newly clean street will end up being “acknowledged in the Lords” too.
*Data from ‘Eat Your Heart Out‘, by Felicity Lawrence