Rubbish gifts

In this season of generosity, good will and the giving of gifts, it occurred to me to think about whether and when litter can actually be a gift. “Has he gone mad ?”, I hear you ask ? “Litter – a gift ??”. Well, I may have allowed my mind to wander off the straight and narrow slightly but I hope that you will indulge me in a little light-heartedness in the festive season

My first observation is the fact that some items of litter are, in the most obvious sense, of monetary value. I have been on litter picks where £5 and £10 notes have been found and have been added to the litter group’s refreshment kitty. In fact my friend Sharon Cattermole of Prittle Brook Community Group in Essex recently reported that she had found a £20 pound note on the pavement. The most remarkable instance I know of something valuable being littered was what a 13-year-old boy found on the roadside on his way home from school in Anchorage, Alaska – a metal box with a million dollars’ worth of stock and savings certificates.

On a much more mundane note, John Edwards of Winchester Litterpickers was a pioneer of the practice of collecting all the aluminium cans that the group picked up and selling them to a local scrap metal merchant. It didn’t generate a huge amount of cash, but was enough to buy the group a few more litterpicking sticks each year. Was John one of the early litter entrepreneurs ?

I have also heard of a group (Odinic Rite from Tonbridge in Kent) finding a fruit machine dumped in a country lane but, for reasons which are probably self-evident, any cash had already been removed by the dumpers.

A more recent (and amusing) example of the gift of litter was reported by The Guardian and involved the Chelsea football team when they played Corinthians in the Club World Cup final in Japan. Apparently, players and staff have been warned to be more careful after an instruction sheet explaining tactics was found by journalists from the Brazilian website Globoesporte following the Club World Cup final. After the team had left the stadium journalists found a crumpled piece of paper among litter in a bin.

The sheet detailed which Corinthians players should be marked at corners and said in large red capital letters to “be aware of counter attack” while pushing forward and to “immediately [push] up after we clear first ball” when defending set pieces.

The instructions are understood to have been left in the changing room by a member of staff, although the details were match specific and the club are not overly concerned as the revelations will not jeopardise any future games. Chelsea have reminded their staff and players to be more vigilant and not to allow any internal team instructions to be revealed in the future.

Globoesporte said the sheet was found “among sandwiches, energy drinks and broken sports equipment … the British left in the dressing room simple notes about O Timão [Corinthians] and detailed explanations of what each player should do at set pieces.”

Do let me know what other instances you can think of where litter has turned out to be a gift. And, in particular, do please let me know if you find any abandoned gold, frankincense or myrrh.

And I wish you all a very clean 2013 !

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