Out The Door, In The Bin: Littering As Lockdown Eases

9th June 2020

By Rebekah Tullis, Social Secretary

The Meadows, Edinburgh

Something that the current global pandemic has emphasised is the influence that human consumerism have on the planet. Even by March the nitrogen dioxide levels had dramatically decreased due to fewer car journeys and flights. 

During lockdown, green spaces were notably cleaner with a clear reduction of litter in our absence. However, the record-breaking sunshine across the UK as lockdown restrictions ease has seen a return to bad habits as many of us return to enjoying the great outdoors. Less than a few days into the easing of lockdown rules, our beautiful public spaces rapidly returned to their prior state. 

The Meadows in Edinburgh is - as residential families, students and visitors to the city will know - a frequently visited large public park. There are large waste bins which surround all sides of the park, yet somehow it is common for large abundances of litter to be left behind. This is not an issue limited to Edinburgh nor a new problem that has arisen from the recent pandemic - green spaces all around the UK are being polluted by sun-seekers.

Durdle Door, Dorset

Hackney, London

Now is the time to reconsider our consumerist, environmentally damaging pre-COVID behaviours. As lockdown restrictions are eased, replace the bad habit of littering with the good habit of disposing rubbish responsibly. It’s not hard!

If rubbish bins are overflowing or absent, you can:

  • Hold onto your rubbish until you find an appropriate bin
  • Take your rubbish home with you and dispose of it there. 
  • Buy products with limited packaging in the first place or bring your own reusable containers.
  • Choose not to litter.

Littering is harmful for our planet and the animals that live on it (including us!) because: 

  • Litter is not recycled, so increases the amount of waste sent to landfills. This adds to methane levels and contaminates both soil and water.
  • Littering creates unattractive public spaces.
  • It can be harmful to wildlife.
  • It risks water pollution.

On a final, more light-hearted note:

Local parks and green spaces have been proven to improve our wellbeing. Research from Fields in Trust suggested that the wellbeing value associated with the frequent use of local parks and green spaces is worth more than £34 billion each year to the UK adult population. It said that regular park users also visited their GP less often, resulting in a saving to the NHS of £111 million every year and so overall improvements in both our physical and mental health!

So don’t hold back from enjoying the sun after lockdown, but just think about binning any litter after!