When I was a young boy, I was travelling in the back of my slightly eccentric great-aunt’s Renault 4 on a quiet road in the Orkney Islands. I sat up straight as a car overtook us at speed. What happened next made me sit up even straighter. My great Aunt was honking her horn, flashing her lights and attempting to match the car for speed. What had stirred my usually mild-mannered great-aunt was not a speeding motorist, but the fact that he had thrown a crisp packet out of the car window. ‘Hooligan! Litter lout!’ She yelled. It was a sight to behold.
For those who know the Orkney Islands, it is a Garden of Eden (when not shrouded in mist or being lashed by gales). I was bewildered by my aunt’s behaviour then, but empathise with it now. It takes up to 80 years for a crisp packet to dissolve: what was thrown out the car window all those years ago will still be littering land or ocean for decades to come.
Beyond visual pollution, litter impacts in other ways:
- In 2017/18, fly tipping cost local councils in England £12,200,000
- The irresponsible disposal of hazardous chemicals poisons land and water, impacting the health of both human and animal
- Plastic pollution also impacts animals and humans: the average person eats at least 50,000 particles of micro-plastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity – the equivalent of a credit card
- Many wildfires are started by the irresponsible disposal of litter, particularly cigarette butts
- The death of thousands of animals each year is caused by littering.
This week, Year 7 stepped up to the plate to start a daily duty that will continue through the course of the year: litter picking in the local area. It is good to provide children with opportunities to undertake community service. In my experience, they are very aware of the need to protect their planet and could, in many respects, teach the adults of the world a lesson in this respect. When Year 7 boys were asked to volunteer, everyone agreed to do so.
A key focus for strategic development at Bickley Park this year is to establish more widely a robust structure for improving our sustainability credentials. A committee of pupils, teachers and parents will formulate a plan that will enable Bickley Park to lead the way locally, and further afield, in providing a template for schools practically to help contribute towards a responsible commitment towards the future of our planet.