Above and below - rubbish strewn over the ground outside the Marriot Hotel next to College Green, Bristol
So what do we do about this? Early on Sunday morning (25th July 2010) outside a hotel in the centre of Bristol - the whole place was littered with broken bottles, cans, take-away packaging and papers. This is a lovely part of the city right by the cathedral and College Green at the Bottom of Park Street. Everywhere was covered in rubbish - all over the streets, the green, the pavements, evidence of a throw away society that pays no regard to the place where we live.
3 men from the council were picking it up and putting it in large bins - to go to landfill I expect. I asked one of them if it was always like this. Yes - but the centre is worse he said, especially on that day when he told me it was the worst he had seen it, in some parts difficult to walk down the street.
Who does this and why? And how do we stop it? It is a sign of a dysfunctional society and lack of community. Why do we put up with it?
I know alcohol plays a part, but it is also a mindset of "this is me and stuff the rest of the world"
But rubbish is horrible for everyone to look at, dangerous for children and animals and a symptom of our diseased mentality - everything is ours to take, use, chuck.
This is a photo of an albatross that died because it ate plastic bottle tops that litter the oceans - brought there by rivers and ocean currents from city streets all over the world. Would a large screen on College Green and in the city centre that showed the effect of rubbish on rivers, oceans, wildlife and people help rubbish throwers to realise exactly what they are doing? Do you think they would look at these images and think twice? Part of me would like to think so, part of me - the cynical side I try to fight - thinks they wouldn't care a toss as long as the beefburgers and beer kept coming.
So what do we do? Get the message into schools for sure. Get fines working. Get people to understand through TV/radio/paper ads the effect of throwing things into the streets.
So many services are under threat from the cuts to local councils announced by the government; real services that will affect the lives of vulnerable people such as care for the elderly, children's services, schools and so on. Just think if Bristol could spend half or a quarter of the cost of cleaning streets and put that to protecting meals on wheels or health services. But instead hard to come by money is spent on paying people to turn out early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to collect rubbish that could be put in bins. We have to be able to tackle this one - surely. This has to be an easy one to get hold of and save money?
Bristol has a Clean and Green campaign part of which is aimed at fast food littering.
Some staggering stats from the web page:
Fast food litter is the most rapidly increasing type of litter on streets across Britain, increasing from 5% to a staggering 22% in four years. Bristol's city centre greets an estimated 30 thousand people each weekend night who have come to enjoy a drink. A number of the visitors will stop for a night time snack.
Up to one and a half tonnes of fast food litter ends up littered on the streets of Bristol each weekend night, and Bristol City Council has 24 hour cleaning to deal with the problem.
And here is a news report on it from BBC Bristol.
What is that telling us about the last 4 years? They also say the fast food litter teams clear it away early before residents see it. Maybe they shouldn't, maybe if people saw the horror they would demand it be stopped and we would come up with a solution. I was shocked when I saw it and it prompted me to write this blog.
In these times of cuts which are threatening so many this has to be one we tackle as a city together - all over Britain.
Perhaps in a few years throwing rubbish won't be possible anyway because packaging will become too expensive - and maybe we'll begin to get a glimmer of the real cost of the goods that we take so much for granted. When oil can't be used for take-away containers, when beef becomes too expensive to produce anyway, when plastic bottles become a thing of the past, when glass becomes something we are obliged to take back to the shop/supermarket to be recycled, maybe we'll get the message that the last few decades has been a terrible time of taking the planet for granted.