The last few months have been difficult and disorientating for us all as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to reduce our liberty, restrict our relationships and alter our immediate plans. Longed for summer holidays for many have been replaced with the Great British staycation, boosting the economy of tourist hotspots like Devon, Cornwall, Wales and the Lake District. And whilst this is a positive step in regaining some autonomy over our lives whilst observing social distancing rules and wearing face coverings, a new blight has befallen many of these areas in the guise of excess littering.
Whilst littering is a perennial problem under any circumstance, with more “than two million pieces of litter” dropped in the UK every day costing the taxpayer over £1 billion a year for street cleaning, it has increased exponentially as lockdown began to ease and as more people travelled to UK tourist destinations. It is not just an increase in plastic bottles, plastic bags, disposable barbecues and food wrappings, there is also an increase in organic waste, orange peel, apple cores and banana skins.
Whilst walking with my dog Noah to the top of Ling Fell earlier this week in the north-west of the Lake District, we came upon the orange peel in the above picture near the trig pillar. Presumably a fell walker had reached the trig and paused to admire the view whilst enjoying their orange, then thought they would leave the remains behind as it is biodegradable. When compared to plastic bottles and bags which take 450 years and 20 years respectively to decompose, 2 years for a banana skin and 6 months for orange peel can lure us into a false belief that as this waste is organic it is more acceptable to leave it behind. This is a fallacy as ultimately it is litter, and whilst not only visually compromising an area, it also encourages others to do the same which could harm the relationship between walkers and the farmers who use the fells to graze their livestock and irrevocably alter the ecosystem of the area as these materials are effectively foreign objects and do not belong.
Whilst acknowledging it is wonderful to see so many people enjoying the Cumbrian fells, mountains and lakes, The Friends of the Lake District have organised ‘The Great Cumbrian Litter Pick’ to be held across the weekend of the 15th and 16th August to bring the community together and clean up the litter. Noah and myself will be picking around Sale Fell and Ling Fell to help keep the place we enjoy clean for others and for the natural environment itself.
Regardless of the destination, please be mindful that organic waste is still litter and if you have exerted the energy required to carry it with you, you will expend no less taking it back home to dispose of correctly. Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.