Something to make your blood boil: trash trails

One can get into troublesome territory when contemplating a rant… there’s a danger that you’ll plummet into a pit of sanctimony or open a can of worms that crawl around your conscious and compromise other attempts at blogging debate in future.

Dove Stones Reservoir complex

I’m on relatively safe ground here, though.

I live in the densely populated urban fringe, bordering the spartan northern Peak District and South Pennines. I’m lucky to have such great hillwalking, mountain biking and road cycling on my doorstep.

However, maybe it’s my age or just a general lack of tolerance these days, but I find myself increasingly angered by the level of rubbish that can be found in the upland areas near my home.


Things are really bad where the towns abut the hills. Sacks of rubbish are chucked over dry stone walls, old tyres dumped in undergrowth and slung into hedgerows, while fast food packaging can be found in the remotest spots.

It’s sickening.

Away from urban areas, the problem rears its ugly head where access is provided for cars. Lay-bys where the Pennine Way crosses major high-level roads can become unofficial waste dumps. Plastic waste sacks are no match for the attentions of moorland fauna while high winds on the plateau give this disgusting detritus an Aeolian lift, extending its unsavoury effect beyond the roadside.

The rather lovely Dove Stones complex, near Greenfield, also suffers. Litter can be found regularly on the path that circles the reservoirs here. Even worse, though, are dog owners who arm themselves with scented bags for dog mess, clear up their canine’s deposition and then leave the tied bag on the ground. Give me strength…

I courted some strange looks one sunny afternoon last year when, reaching the end of my tether, I walked around the reservoirs picking up litter, stuffing into the side pockets of my Pinnacle pack. When I reached the bin in the car park, I was barely able to empty them without ripping the fabric such was the compressed volume of trash.

OK, enough of the anecdotes.

I know I’m not alone on this one. The ever-engaging blogger, campaigner and LeJoger, Alan Sloman has been outspoken on this topic in the past. Another lightweight end-to-ender, John Cromarty, also acknowledges the problem in his interview podcast with Backpackinglight.co.uk.

As ‘mountain go-ers’, for want of a better term, we have a responsibility to hike and camp with the utmost sensitivity for the areas we travel through. Most of us do, because we value the places we visit and respect others who seek to enjoy these places. I would like to think we operate a similar set of values if walking down a high street.

The dispiriting flytipping I’ve experienced on the urban fringe highlights a deeper cultural issue, though… a complete lack of respect for the environment and of other people. Big Society it definitely ‘aint.

There are no easy solutions, either.

Civil enforcement has worked in some areas, although mainly urban centres. Clean up is expensive: local authorities spent £858 million on street cleansing in 2008-09.

Although primarily ‘urban focussed’, Encams, the charity behind the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, has tried to get the root of the problem and establish why people drop litter through ‘segmentation surveys’. In 2006, the last time this was done, 46% of people admitted to being ‘tossers’, to use Encams’ laconic expression.

The charity calls for a multi-faceted approach. Land managers must ensure places are clean – to maintain a standard – and ensure the public are reminded of what to do with their rubbish. Adequate facilities – bins – must be provided, too, where appropriate (not the middle of peat moorland, but certainly in all car parks).

The charity concludes: ‘the results of this research clearly demonstrate that littering is a deeply ingrained behaviour that people find easy to excuse. People do not take responsibility for their littering behaviour and blame it on a variety of external influences such as dirty streets and a lack of bins. ENCAMS would like to see more people taking responsibility for, and feeling proud of the places where they live, work and socialise’.

Amen to that.

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6 thoughts on “Something to make your blood boil: trash trails

  1. I blame it on insulation; the insulation the car provides between the occupants and society & natural surroundings.

    Normally sane, pleasant people become vengeful sadists behind the wheel. They also become litter louts. People who would never dream of chucking apple cores down in the street as pedestrians quite happily lob them from car windows on a journey. From that it is a short step to lobbing other trash out of parked cars in car parks.

    These same people stuff rubbish into the walls of shelters at the top of mountains.

    There’s only one solution – those caught littering should have their goollies cut off. That would make people stop and think before littering.

    I now try and pick up obvious litter than won’t be a health hazard on walks and if I do see someone littering I pick up their litter, chase after them and deliver it back to them very forcibly and ask them no to do it again.

    Haven’t been thumped yet…

  2. Liking the solution Alan! I have tried the ‘polite reminder’ approach and, although it prompted a look of disgust, I too avoided the thump. If only it were possible to collect the rubbish people casually throw from their vehicles and dump it in their living room, then attitudes would change.

  3. Selfish people who don’t care what happens to their waste as long as they don’t have to deal with it. When living in rural Worcestershire I found the worst offenders were the fast food munchers, who obviously didn’t like the way the wrappers made their cars smell. The solution? Throw it all out the window into the previously pleasant country lane.
    I can only hope that this was the behaviour of youngsters who grew up to know better.
    Apparently the dog walkers are now the worst culprits – as you pointed out, bagging but not binning.
    I have to admit, however, I am guilty of tossing my apple cores into the hedge from the car and while walking. I had always been told that this was ok as it will biodegrade fairly rapidly and provide food for birds, insects etc – is this not the case?

  4. Thanks for dropping by Arun. While biodegradable, I think it best to carry your apple cores out and compost them. If I lived in the right kind of house, I would have a pig… the best food waste recycling unit in my limited experience.

  5. Hi NW

    I found you via deaddinosaur.co.uk. I have to agree with all the comments here on ‘tossers’ – they are aptly named.

    What I find difficult to understand is that they carry heavy drink cans into the mountains and when they are empty and light, they then discard them.

    Personally I would have them wearing bright uniforms with ‘I am a litter lout’ emblazoned on them, while doing 100 hours community service picking up trash.

    Bill
    Ashton-under-Lyne, UK

  6. Hi Bill, Thanks for dropping by.

    I too would like to see some recompense with time spent clearing up the mess created. Might instil a sense of collective responsibility, or am I being naive? Probably.

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