Last weekend I was appalled to find discarded food wrappers and plastic drinks bottles in a car park. The car park was at the end of a track headed towards Pen y Fan and was clearly used almost entirely by outdoor types, walkers etc. If this type of person does not care enough to take their litter home with them what hope is there?
People that litter used to be called litter-bugs but this term seems to have fallen out of use with no common place word springing up to replace it, that I am aware of. I rather like the Aussie term for these people “tossers” as used in their public interest adverts “Don’t be a tosser!”. I have been doing some searching and find that in addition to the “Keep Britain Tidy” website there is also a website http://www.litteraction.org.uk. This site is devoted to organising litter picking groups which is very laudable but not, I feel, going to cure the basic problem.
I routinely pick up litter when out walking in the country, provided I am not already carrying a heavy pack or going where I know I will not be able to dispose of it for some time. But my two recent-ish attempts to influence tossers have resulted in abusive language and threats.
The first incident occurred in Swansea a year or so back. It was a nice sunny day and I was walking behind a couple with a toddler and wheeling a push chair. The man was drinking a coffee and when he had enough of the drink he placed it on top of an electricity sub-station by the side of the road. I was right behind them and walking more quickly so as I walked past the discarded cup I picked it up, carried on, past the couple, and said “There is a litter bin just up there. I will put your cup in it for you.” as I past. He replied “Just F… off” and followed it with some more f’ing abuse. I guess that not only was he quite prepared to show his kids that it was quite OK to just litter the place up but also that abusive language and behaviour was completely appropriate.
The second incident happened this week. I was on a bus. The man in front of me was drinking a diet coke. When he had finished he crushed the can somewhat, reached down and placed it on the floor behind the seat in front. I caught his attention by tapping his shoulder and pointed out that there was a bin at the front of the bus. His first response was “I will take it with me when I get off.” Then his brain must have kicked into action and he turned round to face me. He had small out-of-focus eyes and a shaved head, no doubt an intellectual-type! He said loudly “Who the f.., do you think you are. You want to be careful an old man like you, and your f…ing small.” (When he said this I clocked that he was, in fact, also very big, hence the diet coke.) He then continued to berate me using a wide range of swear words for a few minutes. Later, when I got off the bus he shouted the customary warning goodbye “See you. PAL”.
So, this “small, old man” is going to stop trying to change tossers’ behaviour and concentrate on removing the litter I encounter. Maybe I will join in with the litteraction group after all.