Flushed with Pride

We’ve been out this weekend taking part in beachwatch, the Marine Conservation Society‘s annual beach clean and litter survey. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, even for fully paid up a litter-hater like myself. Today, in less than two hours, on just our small portion of the beach, the other half and I picked up more than 65 little plastic sticks that had originally been cotton wool buds. As people don’t generally take these to the beach with them, it means they’ve come out of the sewers. Mmmmm, lovely. Add in broken glass, bottle caps, dog poo, an (un)’sanitary item’, cigarette butts, chocolate bar wrappers and dozens of drinking straws and you can see why, when it comes to my next beach holiday, I think I’ll opt for a nice  walk in the hills.

Sadly, there’s another effect to doing a beach clean, other than simply adding to the warm glow of smugness that surrounds me and which is now in danger of being visible from space. Yesterday, we went for a short walk along our road, down to the post box and the cottage-that-sells-eggs. Suddenly tuned in to the stuff, I could see nothing but litter: discarded bottles, cans, wrappers, ciggies, bottle lids, you name it. I even caught myself thinking I should take a bag and pick up some of the worst of it as we went, just to make myself feel better. Girls, take it from me, you can’t fight it. Eventually you will turn into your own mother*.

And the other thing that struck me (other than the fact that it’s a really really bad idea to flush your cotton buds down the loo) is how willing the holidaying Brit is to sit and watch other people work. By the end of our two hours, we had a fascinated audience of middle-aged couples, sitting comfortably on the benches of the front, enjoying the show. Some of them had even brought sandwiches. Some of them – undoubtedly – dropped the wrappers on the beach afterwards. But if they did, they did at least wait until after we had gone. And for that,  if nothing else, we should be grateful.

*Which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course

13 Responses to Flushed with Pride

  1. I know what you mean about the “smug” bit. I do a spot of litter picking along our local Sustrans railway path. I tend to have to give up when I have two bin bags full (about a quarter mile’s worth) because that’s all I can carry.

    What really, really gets me is those “nice” people who collect their “nice” little doggie’s poo into a specially purchased scented plastic bag, tie a “nice” little knot in the bag to prevent the contents escaping…

    …And then they very neatly tie the bag to the nearby fence wire for all to admire.

    “Nice”? “Scum”, more like.

    What I would really, really like to do is to take the contents of these bags and do something really, really nasty with it. Like rubbing those scumbag dog owner’s faces in it.

    But that would only make me like those scum, wouldn’t it.

    And I want to stay officially smug.

    So I won’t do it.

    This time…

  2. disgruntled says:

    Really, scented bags? I’m appalled.

  3. It sounds to me that you live in a wonderful part of my home land… do you do, or have you ever thought about doing B’nB to fellow bloggers? and their families??

  4. 2whls3spds says:

    I KNEW there had to be another reason for choosing the “cotton buds” with the cardboard stick; other than the fact the plastic hurts my ears. LOL Society has become hooked on disposable stuff and unfortunately the environment bears the brunt of it. We make a conscious effort to purchase products that are biodegradable and with the minimal amount of packaging possible. If it has to be packaged I want in glass, aluminum or steel that can be recycled. IIRC less than 2% of plastic is recycled AND (at least in the US) all food products packed in plastic must be packed in virgin plastic. BOOO HISSS!

    Smugness run a muck! Hear Hear!


  5. disgruntled says:

    LLD – hehe – it’s a thought. At least I know where all the clean beaches are…
    2whls – I haven’t been able to find cardboard ones so we bag and bin ours, but that’s just postponing the problem. Over here, we’re starting to get recycling plants that can make food-grade plastic bottles, so it’s starting to change. Slowly, slowly…

  6. Helen says:

    We did take bags with us on our dog walks a couple of springs back. Then we switched to large bin bags. It took about 3 walks per route to clear all the rubbish.
    On the doggy-poo bag front we do bag and drop, to pick back up on the way home. I must admit we occasionally forget one but will get it on the next walk. We have been known to bag up other dog’s deposits…

  7. 2whls3spds says:

    I would be interested in the technology that is allowing them to use recycled plastics for food grade. I have a biology background rather than chemistry, but my understanding is that the plastic molecules are fairly large and lend themselves well to having all kinds of things attach themselves to them

    We live off of the main road that leads to the local county dump. The road is cleaned monthly and typically we get a standard fullsized pickup full of trash. With most of it being plastic based.

    Plastics have their place but IMHO they are being overused.

    The “cotton buds” I buy are the Q-tips® brand. They may not be available in the EU. I know I shipped a large box of them to my son in Leeds as part of his care package. 😉


  8. Disgruntled: Yes, indeed scented bags. Apparently they are available at baby-care retailers and they are made that way to disguise the smell of the disposable nappies for which they are really designed.

    The mind does, indeed, boggle…

  9. disgruntled says:

    Helen – you’re a better person than I am…
    2whls – The story is here. It may be that Europe is ahead of the US on this, or it may be we’re all going to die horribly, poisoned by our own milk bottles. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I shall look out for Q-tips.
    WW – we’re doomed, I tell you. All doomed.

  10. Flighty says:

    If you want to know more about the ‘horrors’ of plastic then this is the blog to look at

  11. disgruntled says:

    I do think plastic has its place – it’s lightweight for a start, and so saves on carbon transporting things. And for some things, like electrical insulation, it’s clearly the best thing for the job. But its place definitely doesn’t include the beach, and the more we can recycle it, the better.

  12. sungirltan says:

    i went up the wall at my other half for putting cotton buds down the loo. *smug

  13. disgruntled says:

    Damn straight. Apart from anything else, they’ll block your pipes …

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