Litter picking someone else’s rubbish?

Responsible or tidying away a problem?

Why I am a litter picker (c)

Litter picking someone else’s rubbish – is it silly, responsible or tidying a way a problem?

I am not top of the tidy homes list, but I find litter unsettling. It causes disharmony.

For me litter picking is an expression and manifestation of my values and my sense of responsibility towards my neighbourhood and our planet.

However, I find myself constantly tested on my daily walks.

To have peace of mind and to manage life as best as I can, it is important for me to live according to my values and with the best of intentions towards myself, others and nature. 

That is the basis of my personal spirituality. While my home may not do well on some people’s ‘well-organized and tidy’ scale, I feel (mostly) in harmony with the way things are.

However, in the environment where I live, I sense an increasing level of disharmony, which I find unsettling.

Apart from the various political, social and economic reasons that are causing anxieties, frustrations and conflict, the increase in litter reflects a worrying turn in attitude towards ourselves, our community and nature. Discarded litter, even when bins are nearby, and worst, smashed up bottles show indifference and insensitivity to risk.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not a ‘grumpy so and so’ just moaning. I am worried about the direction we may be heading for.

I live by a river, which attracts a variety of human and animal beings.

  • Anglers, dog walkers, people on their way to work and back, children on their way to school and back, older people alone or couples in their cars, eating, reading the paper with a flask of coffee or tea, people napping in their cars, people on benches.
  • In the evenings, more people, legs dangling out of cars, some more or less romantic meet ups, people on benches idling the evening away in conversation, debate, music, the smell of legal and illegal smokes, people in camper or other vans staying overnight, for days and weeks and months.
  • Dogs, herons, ducks, pigeon, fish, people on boats, people threatening to jump, rescue boats occasionally racing up and down on call outs.

You get the picture. I feel privileged to live here. I could not imagine living anywhere else.

In the mornings on my first walk of the day with my dog, the place is usually empty of people but full of litter and broken glass. And for me it reflects an attitude of the ‘I don’t care’, ‘I smash it up’, ‘Not my problem’, ‘What are you looking at’ society. And you do not need to live where I do, to know what I mean.

Yes, the foxes and crows pull at the over-flowing bins; and yes, the bins are probably not emptied as frequently as they should; and yes, the street sweepers may not sweep as much as they probably should.

But an increasing number of people clearly cannot be bothered to put their rubbish in the bins or take it home. Take-away wrappers, containers, cutlery, bottles, cans… they are all left there, just dumped. Often with ballons and laughing gas canisters.

So, on most days I pick up some of the litter. And on some days I wonder whether I am prolonging this state of affairs?

Am I litter picking and tidying away the problem?

The next person would not know, what the place looked like before.

And if I don’t do my spot of litter picking, will I then become complicit in this ‘I don’t care’, anti-social, anti-community, selfish and irresponsible and indifferent attitude?

Some fellow dog walkers take bags along with them on their walks, and gloves. You never know what you might pick up. Some months ago, my dog cut all of its four paws. We are not fully sure how, but with the amount of smashed up glass lying about, the risk for animals, children, all of us is clearly there.

While I am trying hard to act with love and kindness and to be in tune with my values and spiritual compass, the daily scene does leave me with mixed feelings and anger and frustration, which I am trying hard not to let take over and lead to social resignation.

The angry ‘me’ shouts:

“While I write about coping with feeling alienated, how not to fear depression, how to cope with life after cancer, how to cope with bereavement … while I want to pass on something and give meaning to some of my own battles and difficulties, people are parading close to where I live and they clearly do not give a whatnot.”

The more calm, balanced and positively determined ‘me’ says:

“But I do give a whatnot, and will continue to give a whatnot and those who don’t, might give a whatnot, sometime later in their lifetime.”

In the meantime, I choose to continue picking litter and spread some seeds of harmony, which is the lived spirituality I need to keep well and make sense of an increasingly difficult world.

Creating inner peace: why and how Read More

(Published by Huffington Post.)

Shovel and broom on feature image Kindly provided by my local Port of London Authority office.



  1. I loved this post.

    It’s been a long time since I picked up trash while out on a walk. You’re making me think I should return to that habit.

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