Our litter picking group continue to do great work in keeping Letterkenny clean. In recent weeks we have had a few first timers, which is always great to see, and our regulars continue to do great work. Many of our volunteers meet at the Market Square on Sunday mornings from 10.30, where Neil, our coordinator, directs them towards the areas which most need cleaning up, and provides any bags, gloves etc that might be needed. Other volunteers go out at whatever time it suits them, some on a weekly basis and others on a more occasional basis. However often each person goes out litter picking, it is all much appreciated, and we always stress to our volunteers that it is entirely up to them how often they get involved. We are always looking for new volunteers, and all are welcome to join us.
Some of our volunteers recently told us how infuriating it was to see that Kiltoy, which they had cleaned that Sunday, was already fairly badly littered again by the Tuesday morning. This is a common experience, and a source of frustration to all of us who have volunteered, but unfortunately all we can do is keep chipping away at it in the hope that eventually people might be less inclined to drop litter once an area is kept clean. Many studies have shown that the more littered an area is, the more likely certain people are to add to the litter. Whereas if an area is spotless and beautiful, then the casual litterer may well think twice before hoinking that coffee cup/drink can/takeaway wrapper out of the car window. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I hope I’m not the only one!
One way in which litter can be reduced is by incentivising people not to drop it. Which is why we were delighted to hear of Lidl’s plans to give vouchers for 10c per plastic bottle or aluminium can returned to its stores. Those of us of a certain age can remember when this was the norm for glass bottles, and even today, in Canada you will pay a little extra to buy glass or plastic bottles and can get your deposit returned when you take back the empties. The result is that most people will return their bottles, but even where people don’t there’s a mini industry in people who go round collecting litter in order to collect the deposits.
In conjunction with this, it stands to reason that if less waste is produced in the first place then less will end up as litter. So we are always glad to hear of initiatives by the supermarkets to reduce packaging. They have a long way to go, but at least it’s on their radar, which is a good start, and it’s up to all of us, as customers, to make sure it stays on their radar.
And finally, the perfect way to reduce litter is to catch them young. If it is instilled in our children from a young age that dropping litter is an unacceptable thing to do, then they are far less likely to drop litter themselves, or to grow up into adults who think it’s ok to leave their takeaway wrapper by the roadside. We were delighted to meet a group from Ballyraine FC a while back who were part of a community clean up. For this reason, we sponsored a ‘Junior litter warrior’ competition this summer where we invited facebook followers to send in photos of their kids getting involved in a litter pick. A winner was selected at random each month. We were delighted with the response, and thanks to all who entered.