Litter – Lockdown – Training

Michelle Nudds

Michelle Nudds

Michelle has been a BASC regional officer for four years and prior to that ten years working in the South East region for the Countryside Alliance. Advertising, marketing and hospitality have all featured in Michelle’s work history but her ultimate passion is the countryside and how we pass it onto the next generation.

Three words that have becoming something of a crusade for me more than ever over the last few months are litter, lockdown and training. Particularly living in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), I have found an increase of litter during lockdown.

A beautiful place to live

I live on the South Downs, just outside The South Downs National Park (SDNP).

The SDNP covers over 1,600 square kilometres of England’s most valued lowland landscape in the busiest part of the UK. It has been shaped by the activities of farmers and foresters, large estates and communities, with internationally important wildlife and cultural heritage.

Increase of litter during lockdown, why?

All of us who live and work in the countryside see litter all the time, from takeaway cups in hedgerows to fly tipping in gateways and the dreadful poo bags hanging in a tree!

We see it and pick it up day in day out but during Coronavirus lockdown, litter has reached another level!

More visitors more litter

To start with there was an increase in walkers, runners and families keen to make the most of their daily hour of exercise. But as the weather got warmer, bank holidays came around and more people started arriving. The picnics came out, visitors from further afield began to travel, car parks overflowed, and the rubbish piles grew!

Now, if I had thrown something away, out of a car window or just left it anywhere as a child, I would have been clipped round the ear and branded a “litter bug” – you just didn’t do it! With public service information campaigns about ‘Keep Britain Tidy’, it was ingrained in us to put litter in bins.

So, when out training my gundogs it does make me wonder why humans seem to lack training. Increased litter during lockdown could be avoided with simple awareness and disciple.

I write this remembering my Labrador Ruby who retrieved drink cartons, or Lexi the spaniel who once returned with a half-eaten burger from a burnt-out BBQ left behind a tree.

What have we missed with human training?

I just do not understand how people can take litter to the countryside to enjoy themselves and then just leave it behind.

It has not been just a problem here on the South Downs but across the country; social media has been awash with pictures and comments about the way the countryside – for want of a better word – has just been trashed! You would not think there was a “Countryside Code” or that dropping litter is a criminal offence?

So, how do we train people to take home their litter?

The Countryside Code says “Respect, Protect, Enjoy” and we should be doing just that. But unfortunately, the message is just not getting across to a minority.

The increased litter during lockdown is unacceptable and inexcusable. An attitude by some that what they throw in the street gets picked up overnight is a crazy notion.

“Respect, Protect, Enjoy” is the key message here and this should be instilled in us all from an early age.

We can all do our bit to help maintain the beauty of the countryside. At my next regional education day, I will be donning the ‘don’t be a litterbug message’. Additionally, you can take part in the Great British September Clean this year and show your support. Afterall, if Ruby the Labrador can pick it up, anyone can!