Why Do They Do It?

We live in a beautiful part of the world, and I know we are lucky to live here. What I can’t understand is those people who also live in this area (or at least pass through it and so enjoy its beauty) and then spoil it by leaving litter.

As part of our WI, I have been helping to organise a parish-wide litter-pick each in early spring for over ten years. Each year I am once again struck by the thoughtlessness, laziness and dirtiness of people who deliberately discard rubbish as they pass along our roads. I guess that a lot if it is cast from their car windows, though evidence suggests that some of these litter-bugs have a routine, perhaps even parking up to eat / drink / smoke and chuck the rubbish.

This year, in a 500 metre stretch, there were multiple empty Monster energy drink cans and bottles and empty Lambert and Butler cigarette packets. This has to be the same person, over a length of time, deliberately littering and spoiling an area that, as spring comes on, will be decked with daffodils, star-like flowers of ramsons, bluebells, red campion, primrose, stitchwort and foxgloves.


Lazy? Secret smokers? Badly brought-up? No social conscience? Just plain dirty?…….

I just can’t get into the head of the person who throws their rubbish down wherever they are. Are their homes littered with rubbish? Are there cigarette butts (which ARE litter – taking up to 10 years to disappear) and packets on their kitchen floors, empty bottles and cans on every surface or wedged  amongst the house plants, crisp packets in drifts in the corners, newspapers, receipts, water bottles and plastic bags bestrewing their carpets?

And then there are the ‘dumpers’, those people who drive out to a lovely spot and dump a bag of household rubbish, or an old video player, or paint cans …  when they could have driven just as easily to the council dump and left it there – at no cost. Why do they do it? And, yes, these were real examples from yesterday’s litter-pick.

 So, each year a hardy bunch of wonderful people volunteer and, armed with litter-grabbers loaned by Clean Cornwall, help clear our beautiful parish of this detritus – this year sixteen turned up.  Here are  just two of our volunteers that I caught up with, Rob and Sara (or 3, if your count Freya – who went along for the walk) and just a couple of the bags they filled.

I wonder if I found the weirdest thing this year?  A pair of size 9 or 10 thigh-length, lace-up, high-heeled, pointy boots in black imitation leather with the  heels and soles just about broken off, and great cuts through the ‘leather’. These, about 4ft up a steep bank!   Now you know me, well you ought to by now if you’ve been reading this blog, I am a writer. So, how long do you think before the finding of these items started off an idea for a story?  A  murder mystery perhaps, starting with a village litter pick – the victim being ….. well I’ll let you think about that and save my thoughts for another day when I am looking for inspiration!

And here’s the total haul from the roadsides around our beautiful parish.

Twenty-eight bags of rubbish, a video recorder, two wheels, 2 broken cones and some lengths of melamine coated board and plastic fencing.

The sad thing is, by the time you are reading this ( less than 24 hours after our litter-pick), there will be new litter cast down somewhere in our patch.

So, why do you think they do it?

Any ideas on how to teach people not to litter?

Who do you think the ‘murder victim’ might be???

You know I love to hear from you – do share!


7 thoughts on “Why Do They Do It?

  1. Here in the USA people and organizations can “adopt” a stretch of highway and keep it picked clean. Maybe this is done in Britain also? when my children were young we played a game for a while–each looked out of their car window as we drove and scored points for different types of trash 50 for a discarded piece of furniture, 20 for car tires, 5 for bottles and cans, 10 for oddities. We stopped this when we realized that they were disappointed if there was a lack of trash and instead we made sure to have at least a once-a-month walk in nearby woods to do the same.

    The Delaware beaches have enormous annual clean-ups by volunteers. But much of this is washed up and has been littered at sea.

    It is my impression from a year spent in England, in the 80s, that the British are more rubbishy, so to speak, but this may be if the picnic habit is still well engrained over there? I remember the story of a farmer who took a license plate number one time and picked up the picnic discard and threw it in the picnickers’ front garden.

    Why do people litter? Laziness, affluence and the lack of any value for the bits–think of previous centuries–paper, especially, was saved for all kinds of re-use. Later, cigarette butts were rescued and the tobacco carefully re-used for sale also, in poor neighborhoods.

    • Hi Erika,
      Great to hear from you!
      I do think there is a lot more rubbish around than when I was young. Possibly this is because there is more of an eat / drink on the move lifestyle nowadays, with the fast-food outlets to serve this.

      At the risk of sounding stuck-up, I remember when it was considered uncouth to be seen eating in the street – even something as innocuous as a mars bar – let alone a ‘meal’ type item.

      I don’t think it is a ‘picnic’ thing – this is just rubbish thrown out as they go along (or teens sitting together in a car at a quiet spot – downing their cans of lager and chucking them out the window).

      There is nothing like doing a litter pick for making you notice every piece of rubbish – your eyes sort of get ‘tuned-in’ to spotting it. Perhaps everyone should be msde to do a short litter pick somewhere to open their eyes to it?

      Thank you for your all comments and your murder mystery victim … 🙂

  2. I didn’t really answer your questions. The obvious for the slashed boots
    is a murdered prostitute but I can’t think of a creative not so obvious victim…and we picked up the trash from our walks if this was manageable.

  3. In answer to your question about their homes… have you actually seen my daughter’s bedroom? I think you must have by the way you described it (except for the cigarette butts that is – she’s a non-smoker)!

    Incidentally I used to have a friend who always chucked litter down – note the ‘used to’ – when I challenged her she always said she was keeping people in work; council road sweepers! Argghh!! You just can’t talk to some people.

    Well done for yesterday!

    • Hi Nicky,
      Thanks for commenting!
      Haha.. yes children’s rooms can be shocking. My boys bedrooms were terribly untidy, clothes, toys, pencils, paper & junk everywhere – but their coat and trouser pockets showed (by the amount of rubbish in them) that they didn’t drop their rubbish when out.

      As for your erstwhile friend, I have heard this sort of thing before. Students at the school I used to teach in, would drop wrappers only a pace away from a bin. When challenged they would say ‘It’s the cleaners job to pick it up’.. or .. ‘I can’t pick it up – it’s dirty’ As if they hadn’t just let it drop from their hand as the stuffed the last piece of sweet in their mouth, as if it was coated in stinking slime – not just resting on a corridor floor. … ooo makes me feel annoyed all over again!

      ps – re your daughter: it seems their room tidiness improves when they leave home and have a place of their own 😉

  4. A lot of the general rubbish is distributed by the refuse and recycling collection the lanes are full of it after they have been. The rest beggers belief, I live on the edge of a main road and have found everything from a 20 foot by 15 foot piece of polythene to condoms in my front garden. One morning I came out to lots of broken glass, someone had thrown a framed photo of a happy couple onto my path, which explained the noise from an unhappy couple the night before. About a third of my household waste is collected from my front step.

    The Murder Victim – the boots found first, the body of a naked woman discovered behind the hedge, later identified as a man born and raised (and popular) in the village, who was well known as a transvestite but not known to be a woman. Parents are dead, no other relatives, the local school mistress is retired and in a care home.

    Ok, I’m weird, as soon as I read your question this story line came straight to mind.

    • Hi Annette,
      You are not the only one to suspect the recycling lorries of distributing waste, rather than just collecting it. Certainly, the new design of lorries and the loose nature of the paper waste (now that it is tipped from the garish heavy-duty plastic collection bags into the semi-open sided vehicles as opposed to being colected enclosed in thin recyclable plastic bags) does not seem to help! I have heard eyewitness accounts of paper being ‘whipped out’ by the draught caused by the lorry driving along.
      Love your ‘murder mystery’ response – interestingly it is not totally disimilar to part of the story I concocted for myself as I continued my litter picking that day 🙂 So, not weird at all (or both weird?)

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