Posted by on January 20, 2020 in Blog, Consumer issues, Living today, Rants, Seasonal | 4 comments

Discarded Christmas tree/wetwebwork/flickr

It all started in late December where suddenly the pavements in the area of south London where I live became littered with discarded Christmas trees. Now I am fortunately able-bodied, fully sighted and haven’t pushed a buggy around for years. The point being that if I was afflicted in any of these areas I could have come a cropper, as at some points it was quite difficult to navigate this tree trash without risking falling over or having to step into the street.

It seems that otherwise law-abiding and conscientious members of the community lose the plot once their hitherto beautifully adorned festive tree has become surplus to requirements, and simply chuck it outside the front door. And these are not the sort of people who do this with the rest of their rubbish.

In early January every single local authority gives ample information and dates on its website as to when and how they will collect discarded Christmas trees, and it only takes a few minutes on the old search engine to find out, so why the free-for-all on the pavements I wonder…

I may of course just be behaving like a Grumpy Old Dame (GOD?!), because attitudes to rubbish vary hugely depending on where and how you live. Even in ‘civilised societies’ it is easy for rubbish disposal to fall apart. In 2017 in Birmingham the bin men – have you ever seen a female refuse collector on the trucks? –  went on strike to protest against the council’s plan to restructure this particular workforce. It didn’t take long for piles of rotting waste to fill the streets of the UK’s second biggest city.

In other countries attitudes to waste vary hugely. I have never been to Singapore, but the line that you can be prosecuted for leaving chewing gum on the pavement carries huge resonance. I just wonder if it is true. On holiday in Sicily last year we found the streets and environment relatively litter free, but when we toured around the Etna area this changed completely. There was rubbish of every description dumped by the roadside. Back in the various towns it was a different story, and the streets were clean. No one we asked could explain this anomaly; it was assumed that the people in the towns paid their taxes and had their rubbish collected, while in the countryside it was a free-for-all.

My son lived and studied in Buenos Aires for 6 months. Residents there put all their rubbish out in one bag, and this is then sorted in the early hours by groups of less advantaged people who then take all recyclable items and anything of value away in a lorry to a depot where they are paid for having done so. This community recycling seemed to suit everyone, although my son confessed to feeling a bit odd the first time he found a stranger calmly sorting through his rubbish. Nevertheless, the general feeling that it was a symbiotic relationship where everyone benefited.

When we were all studying for our A levels, one of the boys found a discarded toilet in the street and brought it into our common room – a rather tatty space but at least we were left alone.  It was just after Christmas so it was not long before someone else dragged in a tatty, denuded little fir tree and stood it up in the toilet bowl. Other helping hands brought in scraps of paper and rubbish with which we proceeded to decorate it. Surely this was the spirit of punk before it has been invented! When we returned after one weekend it had gone. Council recycling schemes didn’t exist in those days, so goodness knows how the cleaners disposed of it.


  1. Oh dear Barbara. You have touched on a very sore point when you talk rubbish. Litter in every form can be found everywhere.

    It is a national disgrace. In Olympic year 2012 there was a half- hearted attempt in London to clear some of the trash along the street sides . It didn’t last. What the world must have thought of the UK when they visited I shudder to think.

    How difficult would it be to join forces as a nation to fight this on all levels ? There’s progress in reducing plastics . Reducing litter might be harder but we must try.
    At least fir trees are green and natural although as you say a pest for pavement users. I must stop now. My rant levels are rising…

    • Yes Joyce. Rubbish and litter are not easily solved problems!

      Thanks for the feedback..


  2. We have beach cleans by willing locals and a young enthusiastic environmental group. Perhaps a similar urban system could be set up street by street. I think there are also running groups that include litter picking on the run. Our local chippy also provides buckets and offers children free chips in exchange for a bucket of rubbish. Not great nutritionally but at least they’re being active!

    • Love the idea of swapping rubbish for chips! Not to mention picking up rubbish while runnning – that really adds to the exercise value I guess. Thanks for the feedback.
      Dame B

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