Can Do

Well, if ever there was a year when you might be forgiven for not keeping your New Year’s Resolutions, I imagine 2020 would be that year. Certainly my plan of eating more seasonally did not survive the first bout of panic buying in March, although switching some of my dairy consumption to oat milk has been a boon for limiting additional trips to the shops, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

cans on back of bike

Something that wasn’t a resolution as such, but a project I started at the beginning of the year is going strong though – my one-woman bike-mounted carbon offset programme in the form of rescuing and recycling the aluminium cans I find on the road during my travels. Initially I confined myself to two cans per trip but after a hiatus during lockdown when I was barely going out on the bike I upped my ‘quota’ to four and since lockdown ended this has become more like a minimum – depending on where I’m going and how many litterbugs have preceded me on my regular routes, I often come back with half a dozen or more. I haven’t actually been counting, but since lockdown eased enough in June that I could start my regular rides for the paper again I calculate that I’ve picked up at least 500 cans, the total I was aiming for for the whole year, which means about 60kg of CO2 emissions avoided. And this at the cost of little more a minute or so per day, and the sense that I’ve added yet further weight to my local reputation for eccentricity (I’m not sure which is worse: being known as ‘the woman who picks up rubbish’ or ‘the woman who drinks Monster Punch’, or Dragon Soup or whatever other disgusting concoction of tinned beverages may end up adorning my back rack – although if I come across a Tennants can, I discreetly squash it so it’s hidden in the pocket of my bag; there are limits).

I suppose I should feel some sense of satisfaction about this but in truth I feel a bit eyeorish about it all. I’m quite enjoying the hunt aspect of it, especially now that most of the historic cans have been gathered in – but it’s quite depressing to realise that on any given day I can quite easily find two or three freshly littered cans on a road that I picked clean the day before. The numbers might have gone down a bit since it got cold enough that opening a window to chuck out your rubbish is less comfortable, but I have no doubt they will pick up again in Spring. And if I don’t ride for the paper for a couple of days – or even better, head somewhere new – I can easily pick up 8 or 10 before I run out of room in the outer pocket of my bike bag or the top rack. It’s also a little worrying as a ‘vulnerable road user’ to see how many alcohol cans are scattered along roads far enough away from most habitations that they’ve almost certainly been thrown from cars.

Bike with side basket

I’m also feeling increasingly guilty about all the non-can rubbish I’m leaving behind, even though it’s not as if I threw it there myself. Most of the regular litter picks in the area stopped when the pandemic started and have only partially resumed so once litter is thrown it tends to stick around and because I’m on the hunt for roadside cans I notice it and can see it mounting up. On that front, however, I’ve got a plan. I’ve got a fancy new basket for the back of my bike and today I took it out with a litter picking bag in it and cleaned up a couple of the worst spots (while also fulfilling my can quota, of course). This cheered me up a little until I passed a brand new load of fly-tipped rubbish right by the river. That’s now the third lot I have to pass on my way into town…

I suppose I’ll continue with both the can collecting (I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop now) and the occasional litter picks into 2021. But I might need a more cheerful hobby if any love for my fellow humans is to survive. What quixotic and possibly doomed to failure project are you planning for 2021?

5 Responses to Can Do

  1. stephaniMok says:

    As a lapsed community litter picker and on behalf of right thinking ppl every where, thank you for litter picking 🙏

  2. Well done. I’ve started picking up plastic bottles for similar reasons. Usually find them in the gutter by the roadside.

  3. Bob McLean says:

    Thank-you. Even though you’re way over yonder. I dare say it’s not too bad around here, although there is usually a gathering of some sort of litter pickers in the spring time. Didn’t hear of anything happening this year which I suspect was due to the Pandemic. Where I found the trash to particularly egregious was in Puerto Rico.
    Even one of our American friends found it particularly upsetting, as our common childhood memory was some sort of advert with the slogan, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute”. Yes, there was an owl involved. Seems it’s a Latin thing. And apparently, a Scottish thing?

  4. disgruntled says:

    @stephani – it’s a shame that most of the communal efforts have stopped, although I know some individuals persist.
    @paradise – leaving the bottles was making me feel most guilty because I know they’ll just turn into plastic waste in the rivers and ultimately the sea.
    @Bob – it seems to be an everywhere thing. I remember being horrified in Greece at the sheer amount of plastic litter. France is the only country where I have noticed a real lack of litter, even in picnic spots.

  5. […] worth of paper and card is likely to weigh a fair bit – not to mention the fruits of my can-collecting habit. It would be somewhat ironic if we ended up resorting to using the car on bin day just to do our […]

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