Monday, 4 June 2018

Something Old, Something Older and Something Even Older

Alex Airey and Julie Howell
Parish Councillor Alex Airey with City Councillor Julie Howell.
And 12 sacks of rubbish. 

Another sunny Sunday morning, another litter pick.

This time, and at the request of its lovely residents, my team headed over to Rangefield in Orton Brimbles. We were told the council's litter picking team had been there earlier in the week. We proceeded undeterred. In our experience the council team only picks up the litter that is visible and in easy reach. My team go that little bit extra, poking about in bushes to remove the glass and plastic waste that poses the greatest threat to local wildlife. Litter picking isn't just about making our streets look nicer. It's about making them safer too, and most of what is dangerous tends to be hidden from view.

We often find discarded food packaging that has a BBE (best before end) date on it. This gives us a strong clue about how long the rubbish has been lying in the undergrowth. Five years is not uncommon. How about 35? We recently found a crisp packet that would have been dropped in the street when I was doing my A levels (and not by me, I hasten to add!).

Today, we were joined by several new volunteers. They were all amazing. However, newcomer Babs really impressed when she found not one but two antique pieces of litter that are worthy of a blog post all of their own.

Do you remember Marathon chocolate bars?

Very old Marathon wrapper
A very old Marathon wrapper

If you're as old as me then you will recall that Snickers used to be called Marathon. 19 July 1990 - that's the day when Marathon became Snickers. So the Marathon wrapper Babs found in a bush must have been there for at least 28 years, evidence that plastic degrades very, very slowly.

Other Orton residents have since pointed out that Mars temporarily manufactured Marathons again in 2008. Without the aid of carbon dating (or an expert from Mars) we may never know its true provenance.

Babs, Julie and Barry
Babs, Julie and Barry

Buried treasure?

It's not unusual for us to come across lost identity cards, lanyards and even house keys. But a cheque guarantee card that expired in 1999? That's a new one on us. From its date we know it has lain in undergrowth for at least 19 years (probably more). Writing on the card asks anyone who finds it to return it to Midland Bank. We would if it could, but Midland Bank ceased trading in 1999 (having been taken over by HSBC).

a debit card
A cheque guarantee card that expired in 1999
Who remembers Midland Bank?
Who remembers Switch??
Who remembers cheque guarantee cards???

All credit to Babs for finding this gem. Sadly, it has no worth whatsoever, not to us, nor to the person who lost it (who no longer lives locally as far as we can tell).  Although the mind boggles as to how it found its way into a bush this is irrefutable evidence that in two decades no one has done as thorough a clean of the area as we did on our litter pick. I'm sorry to tell you we find litter that is many years old all the time. The council picks up a lot of it but plenty is deep in undergrowth and gets missed.

This is also irrefutable evidence that plastics left in our local environment take a very long time to biodegrade. They just lie where they are dropped or where the wind blew them and underneath them little can grow. Please remember this when you see any plastic on the ground in the street where you live and - if you have gloves on or a litter picking stick - please pick it up and put it in a bin. Nature would thank you, if it could.

Not everything we found in the bushes was as difficult to spot...

Clearing up fly tip in Orton Brimbles 03 Jun 2018 from Julie Howell on Vimeo.

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