How did that get there ?

Do you ever wonder, when you are out litter-picking, how the litter got there ? I don’t mean the obvious “well – someone dropped it, didn’t they ?”. I am thinking about either individual littered items or a collection of them that makes you think that there must be a story there somewhere.

I was spurred into this thought by a story I read about a man who lives in Winnersh (near Wokingham in Berkshire) who got so fed up with vodka bottles being littered on the verge outside his house that he and his brother decided to clear them up. I am not exaggerating when I say that he collected 83 vodka bottles from a 25-yard stretch of verge – I work that out as just over 3 bottles for every yard. What is more, the vodka bottles were all the same brand and the same pocket-sized bottle.

What on earth can be the story behind this very regular pattern of littering ? Does this man live at the exact distance from the supermarket at which the anonymous vodka-drinker happens to have polished off his pocket-sized bottle ? Does said vodka-drinker really imbibe at such a consistent rate ? Or does the culprit actually live close by and, being an under-age drinker, needs to have finished the bottle before returning to the family home ? Or is this a much more potentially dangerous case of littering from a vehicle ? If so, one only hopes that it isn’t the driver who is the addict of pocket-sized vodkas.

I have often found what might be termed “sequential litter” on my litter-picking perambulations. In its simplest form, you find the large cardboard cup that contained a coffee or a milk shake and you know that the cup’s plastic top (and also, perhaps, a straw) isn’t going to be far away. In a more mysterious pattern, I have sometimes found on the 4-mile circuit that I walk most days that there is a succession of lager cans, all of the same brand, spaced out at intervals. Again, I have no doubt that these cans were flung out of a car and I hope that it wasn’t the driver who was the consumer.

This brings to mind other strange patterns of littered objects or even just strange littered objects. I have heard accounts of volunteer litter groups finding the following objects in the course of their labours : a hole-in-the-wall cash machine (dumped by the robbers after they had ram-raided and emptied it ?); the head of a Dalek (abandoned in a pond in Hampshire – should they have called The Doctor ?); a suitcase full of used notes (or were they forgeries ?); a fruit machine (perhaps for the same reason as the cash machine); and I could go on….

So – look out for interesting littered objects and patterns of littering and please let me know what you make of them. I can only hope that, in our scrutiny of such patterns, we can either find our way to identifying the perpetrator or, at very least, to understanding better how and why litterers do what they do.

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