Will litter in Southsea and South Downs be our legacy? | Blaise Tapp

Rubbish left on Southsea Common on Friday morning, June 26, after the hottest day of the year. Picture: Habibur RahmanRubbish left on Southsea Common on Friday morning, June 26, after the hottest day of the year. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Rubbish left on Southsea Common on Friday morning, June 26, after the hottest day of the year. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Facemasks, the banging of saucepans on doorsteps, social distancing, and furlough are just a few of the highlights through which 2020 will be remembered for generations to come.

This has been a year unlike any other.

I f back in January had we been told that nine million people would be paid to watch Loose Wome n, or that we would have to wear recycled underpants over our faces whenever we went to pick up a pint of milk, it would’ve been dismissed as fantasy.

But this is our reality right now and, given time, we will look back on most of our experiences with a degree of fond nostalgia.

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Who knows, future historians could frame this period as a golden era of solidarity?

While there could be an argument that many of us have channelled the spirit of our grandparents’ generation, that would be to airbrush some of the appalling behaviour that has reared its head in recent months.

At the beginning of lockdown, it beggared belief that there were people who were willing to take the risk and throw an illegal house party.

It is a fair bet that those who flouted the necessarily draconian rules back then are now ‘standing up for their rights’ and refusing to wear face coverings when they venture into shops.

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As far as I can tell, far from being freedom fighters, these are flat Earthers who have now found another alternative view with which to bore everybody.

Tedious contrarians I can deal with – unless they attempt to reach across me in the chilled produce aisle.

But what I have never been able to understand is why people think it is acceptable to leave their rubbish for somebody else to pick up.

One of the least edifying sub-plots of the past five months has been the countless news reports showing litter-strewn beauty spots and beaches.

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Litter has always been an issue but the fact we are hearing so much about it now offends the sensibilities of those of us who had hoped that the pandemic would help us push the reset button and make society that little bit less self-obsessed.

At the very least, I am guilty of an extreme case of wishful thinking, because selfish behaviour can’t be eradicated overnight.

Like speeding or watching X-Factor, nobody admits to dropping rubbish, such is the stigma attached to it but the problem continues to grow.

I’ve never understood why people do it as taking home your butty packaging or your cans is no hardship.

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My view is that littering betrays a character flaw, which suggests that the perpetrators are so devoid of any empathy or sense of public spirit that they might be capable of all manner of illegal acts.

But it would be easy to blame devil dog-owning louts who swagger around town shirtless for this issue but the problem runs much deeper than that, given the scale of the problem.

When beaches were invaded during the sunshine last month tonnes of rubbish was left behind by those who were desperate to get out of the house.

Much of this was picnic-related detritus, meaning it would be difficult to pin all of it on yobs, who are not known for their love of Kettle crisps and brie and cranberry ciabatta.

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The continuing pandemic and the desire of many to avoid crowds presents us with the opportunity to explore the hidden delights of this incredible country of ours but not at any cost.

The South Downs, The Dales and both the Peak and Lake District are all stunning in their own right.

However, this natural majesty suffers when it is blighted with discarded packaging and supermarket carrier bags.

There are many things to worry about right now but it would be a mistake to dismiss littering as a minor issue.

We don’t want it to become this generation’s lasting legacy.