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Letter to the Mayor of London


It has now been a couple of months since the Go-Plogging morning I had in Chelsea.

Even earlier than that I had grown upset with how mankind was mistreating the environment and littering. I still can not believe with everything that is being publicized on the internet about how much harm we are doing to the environment, that habits are not changing.

Two specific episodes come to mind to spark my ire:

1. An early morning drive down Westcombe Park Road in Blackheath and a youth walking on the pavement towards me. He was in his early twenties and just having just finished his bag of MacDonalds instead of holding the bag until he got to the nearest litter bin closed it up and lobbed it over some high bushes to fall into the garden of a home just like mine.

2. Sitting in traffic in the Blackwall Tunnel and a couple of cars in front of me opened up the door and just threw out of the car door onto the A2 his discarded litter. Also some sort of drive through fast food kind of a deal…and then what. Other cars were just going to trample down the litter to oblivion? Once again, I would probably put the driver as late 20’s to early 30’s.

Subsequent to these events I have done some deep soul searching. When I grew up in a cultural homogenous suburb in Minnesota, the message was clear “Do not litter or you will get a fine” and we did not. We kept our litter until we got to a bin and then we disposed of it. Minnesota was CLEAN.

While I make a habit of trying to pick up a can or two from my parking space in Limehouse to my office door, the fact remains that there is probably 100X the amount of litter that needs to be picked up on that specific walk and all I am doing is trying to set an example that everyone ignores. Maybe the fact that council workers pass by the streets once a day lures everyone into thinking that this is the way litter will be picked up but they alone can not do it.

Years ago it became acceptable to litter as litter bins were removed from the streets and the underground for fear the IRA would drop a bomb in a bin, however, times have changed.

While every council in London has a Litter Officer and Litter Laws are enshrined in law with litter penalties in place once would think that this alone would keep the amount of litter down, however, the police force is underfunded as the public and criminals at large all know and one can not expect the police force to go hard on litter bugs.

Go-Plogging is a movement started in Sweden with the aim of clearing litter. Groups of runners or exercise enthusiasts during their runs carry garbage bags and swoop down to pick up litter disposing of the bag at the end of their workout. It has spread to London and my family was invited to put on a Go-Plogging T-shirt and do aclean up of Chelsea with another 30 families. My daughter is now an ambassador of the movement which she runs in Seven Oaks in Kent.

In it’s basic sense Go-Plogging will not be able to clear up the streets of London. There is just too much litter. However, its ideology with heightened awareness and continued work to improving the environment we live in is a sure winner. Litter harms us. Not only is it aesthetically ugly but much of it can be recycled or reused and food stuffs left out are grounds for rodents to eat and breed.

I think the movement against litter will be like it was towards smoking. At the beginning we identified that smoking was dangerous for our health and then that inhaling others smoke was equally as dangerous. At that point I noticed people taking action and telling people who were smoking in non-smoking areas to stop. Then people asked to sit in non-smoking areas and to have bedrooms or apartments, which were non-smoking, and eventually smoking was banned inside establishments for good.

Therefore, GO Go-Plogging and make an impact I say. It will not happen overnight but then Roma was not built in a day. This is a grass roots movement and the more roots we have the faster the message will spread. Let Youth and Age in harmony walk the streets and pick up garbage and let the Go-Plogger and his friend start telling the litter bug to pick up his garbage. Let it be publicised that littering is again unacceptable and every Council Run a Campaign. Let well surveilled areas become litter free areas (God knows London has enough CCTV Camears for this to happen). Let litter fines reach as stage where cash or card penalties can be demanded on the spot. Let train and DLR conducters not only levy fines on people who do not pay for tickets but litter on public transport. Let the Litter Man also become a Litter officer. We need to reach a stage where it is socially unacceptable to litter again due to health and other reasons.

Julian Jarvis


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