Christmas litter

I am delighted to see that Keep Britain Tidy have issued some Christmas tips this year on how best to avoid the particular festive opportunities to litter or fly-tip.

But when you think about it, why should different circumstances prevail at Christmas as far as littering is concerned ? You might even think that, as most of us are going to be spending more time at home over Christmas than we do during the rest of the year (even if this is a situation forced upon some people courtesy of a looming British Airways strike), there is less chance that we will be out there littering the usual public spaces.

Keep Britain Tidy are suggesting that, among other things, we take care over Christmas with the following 3 issues :

First, we should be careful to dispose of our Christmas trees properly (the real ones, that is – whether to buy a real or an artificial tree opens up a whole new vista of debate…..). So many Christmas trees are fly-tipped each year and, like littered tissues, they do indeed biodegrade but it takes a lot longer for them to do so than we might think. Most, if not all, local councils have facilities for the shredding and composting of Christmas trees, so if you’ve gone to the trouble of going out and buying a tree and driving home with it, please also make the effort at the end of the tree’s useful life of taking it to the council tip (sorry, “Recycling Centre”). We can, of course, think of all sorts of reasons why we shouldn’t do this, not least because of all those needles that tend to find their way into every nook and cranny of our cars – and sometimes of us too. So do either tie the used tree to your car roof or cut it up into manageable pieces and put the branches into bin bags for transportation.

The second suggestion from Keep Britain Tidy relates to cigarette ends (and no jokes about Santa putting his butt down the chimney, please). We are still a nation with a high percentage of smokers – and social events tend to lead to the accumulation of cigarette butts. So Keep Britain Tidy suggest using portable ashtrays so that the smokers don’t carpet your lawn with fag ends. I’d also extend that point to pubs and offices and, particularly, office parties. When you’ve had a few drinks, your awareness levels tend to drop and so if there isn’t a handy receptacle for your butt ends, they are much more likely to end up on the ground.

The third Keep Britain Tidy point is about fast food. It is a natural biological reaction, when you’ve been out on the razzle, to develop a craving for some nice greasy food to fill your tummy. Hence the roaring fast food trade in the late night hours. Keep Britain Tidy beseech us all to remember, despite the seasonally merry state that we’re in, that we must pop our fast food packaging and remnants into a litter bin. Apart from anything else, we risk incurring a fine of £75 or so if we are spotted littering. And piles of fast food packaging blowing round town are hardly attractive – except to the rat population. I also beseech councils to empty litter bins assiduously over the festive season to avoid anyone coming up with the biblical excuse that “there was no room at the bin”…….

Actually, I think that there are two other aspects worthy of mention in the context of Christmas littering.

I heard Chris Rea being interviewed on the radio this morning – it was being suggested that his perennial love-it-or-hate-it song “Driving Home for Christmas” (I must confess that I love it) qualifies for the label “Christmas carol”. It immediately brought to mind the increase of traffic on the roads at Christmas and, as surely as Easter follows Christmas, the occurrence of plenty of littering from vehicles on the verges and hard shoulders of our road system.

And, finally, what about all that wrapping paper ? It may not actually litter anywhere other than the sitting room floor, but can we not find an alternative method of presenting our presents ? It sometimes seems like the wrapping paper creates a larger volume of waste than the presents themselves would constitute. So, all you creative people out there – please leave some comments here with a few ingenious ideas for a “Christmas unwrapped” campaign.

After all, the Three Wise Men brought the baby Jesus his birthday gifts in containers that were clearly re-usable. Perhaps those Wise Men were wiser (and greener) than we have ever given them credit for.

A clean and cheerful Christmas to you all !

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