WETHERBY LIFE – Britain seems to be a nation of rubbish droppers

We must get people to always use litter bins.
We must get people to always use litter bins.

Rubbish litters the streets in the Wetherby area prompting Wetherby News correspondent and former Mayor Cindy Bentley to ask if we are a nation of litter bugs.

We had the great good fortune to miss the deluge which hit the UK with such force – we watched it on TV with the air conditioning on and the outside temperature around 30 degrees! No, we weren’t in Torquay, but Tenerife.

It was quite weird to see Tadcaster on the national news.

The flight to Tenerife from Leeds/Bradford was, as usual, long and uncomfortable – the seats always remind me of church pews, very upright and extremely hard – definitely not designed for luxury travel, let alone snoozing.

The days of being able to recline your seat have obviously gone in favour of cramming the maximum number of bodies into the cabin.

The other passengers were predominantly the over-55’s with a couple of young families. At least half a dozen times during the flight, the cabin crew explained that it was a very quick turn round in Tenerife, that they had to clean the cabin themselves and they would be very grateful if people would put their rubbish into the plastic bags which were brought round at regular intervals. All you had to do was lean over and put it in the bag.

When we landed, we had to walk the length of the cabin as our seats were at the back. I could not believe the amount of rubbish left behind both on the seats and on the floor – newspapers, magazines, sweet papers, crisp bags.

I felt really sorry for the crew who had to pick it all up before the return flight an hour later. You couldn’t blame it on young people (which is what often happens) – there weren’t many on the plane. It did leave me wondering if these passengers would do the same thing in their own homes.

Sadly, it’s the same all over in this country. I have lost count of the number of times there have been articles, photos and letters in this newspaper from local residents, complaining about the amount of rubbish dumped all over the town.

The Wetherby town handyman spends at least one day every week picking up rubbish from Scaur Bank and other green space areas in the town – and believe me, he ends up with bags and bags full. The issue is regularly raised at town council meetings and our ward councillors organise litter picks on areas in and around the town which are the responsibility of Leeds City Council.

What is the matter with us? Why do we think that just dropping our rubbish all over the place is OK? Or is it just that people don’t think?

The issue was once raised with me by an Australian visitor – she remarked on the amount of litter on grass verges, in parks and on the streets in the UK and asked why we didn’t take more of a pride in our country? A difficult question to answer. I understand that in Australia, they have a Clean Up Australia day.

I’m not sure that’s the answer – if we only did a clean up once a year, Wetherby would be knee-deep in litter.

Perhaps our recently acquired habit of “grazing” (to use a rather horrible Americanism) is partly to blame. When I had a shop in the town, I frequently noticed people coming out of the baker’s with something in a bag, eating it and then just dropping the screwed up bag on the floor. It obviously didn’t occur to them to put it in their pocket or bag until they found a bin – or even just to take it home.

Fish and chips are now sold in fairly substantial polystyrene boxes rather than in newspaper – although it is probably more hygienic, the boxes do fill litter bins up quickly.

We are lucky in Wetherby in that our local fish and chip shop owners send their staff round the town at a weekend, picking up any boxes left lying around, but they shouldn’t have to do that. Why can’t the empty boxes be taken home and disposed of by the people who bought and ate the fish and chips?

As a rabid anti-smoker, I have a real ‘thing’ about cigarette ends left lying on the floor. Since smoking was banned in pubs and other places, the amount of litter created by smokers has increased hugely. I used to sweep outside my shop every morning and there were usually at least a dozen cigarette ends – and that’s just one small area in the town.

Surely, just employing people to go round picking up everyone’s litter can’t be a sensible solution, but at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative. Do we just accept the fact that we are a particularly dirty nation or does anyone reading this article have an answer to what seems to be an intractable problem?