Since the start of the pandemic there has been a rise in people enjoying the great outdoors, we are very lucky in the UK to have many national parks and woodlands to get out and explore. Unfortunately, our natural environment has taken a hit, not just footprints but sadly, litter has been a problem, whether it’s a lack of bins, awareness, education or even care, there needs to be a change.
The sanctuary the great outdoors has provided, a safe place to go, needs to be looked after and respected as mother nature does for us.
Some statistics, the below shows how long it takes for items to breakdown:
A paper towel: 2 – 4 weeks
Apple core: 1 – 2 months
Banana peel: – 2 years
Cigarette butt: 10 years at least
Steel Can: 50 years
Crisp packet: 75 – 80 years
Plastic straw: 200 – 500 years (now banned in the UK)
Aluminium can: 200 – 500 years
Plastic bottle: 450 years
‘Disposable’ Nappy: 550 years
Fishing line: 600 years
Chewing Gum: Centuries
Only organic things biodegrade, and this still depends on weather and location, non-organic matter only breaks down into smaller particles and never disappears.
There are very simple ways you can reduce your impact on nature, here are a few ideas to get you going.
Firstly, take a bag, I’m not talking about plastic bags either, a good rucksack is an investment and is endlessly useful, so if you can, get a good one and look after it. Fabric carrier bags are useful too, especially if you’re likely to pop into any shops, so have a couple with you too.
A packed lunch is a great start, you are more likely to create something much more appetising and genuine in your own home, rather than a meal deal in a supermarket. It doesn’t need to be a full meal, just take snacks, unpackaged and home-made if you can which cuts out the packaging.
If you’re out and about because you take care of your body, perhaps take some fruit, it’s organic and biodegrades but some items can take a long time, banana skins! If there is no bin shove it in the side pocket of your bag, if you don’t have a side pocket take a container.
Please don’t throw it in the bushes, it takes a long time to disappear and looks unpleasant!
Any type of reusable cutlery is fantastic to take with you, useful for your packed lunches and takeaway foods, now is the time to buy a ‘spork’!
You’re going to want to take some sort of drink with you too, water is an obvious choice but you want to make sure it’s just water. Get a stainless steel or BPA free water bottle so you’re not drinking any toxic plastic particles, found in shop bought water bottles.
Bottled water in shops might have been fresh once but it’s now trapped in plastic bottles, besides it’s only the bottle that you’re paying for, water is free(ish)!
It’s a nice idea to take tea or coffee with you to warm you up, a good flask or travel mug will bring you much happiness and also cuts out spending unnecessary money and waste. If you take your travel mug with you to a coffee shop, there’s a good chance you’ll receive a discount for cutting out the packaging, bonus!
If you’re a smoker, cigarette butts are litter! They’re tedious to pick up and quickly mould themselves into the floor where they will stay a decade at least. The easy solution is to carry a container with you for the butts, ‘pocket ashtrays’ are simple, reusable and responsible.
Now by this time in the pandemic you should have a reusable mask, its more financially friendly and buying single use masks must have become a bit of a chore. So, make sure you’re not caught out without one if you need it, have a few at home and keep a couple in that trusty backpack of yours.
Hand sanitiser is great, it saves lives and prevents the spread of the virus but the convenient little bottles are having an effect of the environment. They are finding their way into the litter hall of shame along with face masks. Consider using bigger recyclable bottles of the stuff and disposing of them correctly or use the same bottle and refill it, you can purchase refills from Steph’s Sustainable Stuff, search for ‘disinfecting hand rub’. This option cuts out the unnecessary plastic packaging and contributes to shopping locally.
So now you’re ready and responsibly embarking on your outdoor adventures! With all of your eco-friendly belongings which are going to save you money and the world at the same time, pretty cool!
Text: Chris Livings (Plastic Free Chesterfield)
Illustration: Chris Livings illustrated by KIP Creates