Broken windows

I could see it in the hedge across the street. Should I leave it there? With a sigh I turned my attention away from trimming a beech tree in the front garden and went to pick it up. An empty McDonald’s (large) drinks cup, complete with lid and straw. Nothing too serious. Maybe it’s just me. I have a thing about litter. More than a thing really.

There’s a theory of criminality posited in the 80s called Broken Window syndrome. It suggests that if you keep a lid on low-level crime, such as breaking windows, graffiti etc in communities the bigger stuff won’t then happen. There have also been studies done into litter that  show that if it is allowed to build up it will bring its mates along. Litter loves company.

In the street round the corner from us there’s a house that’s been on the market for some time. A couple of months ago I noticed a bottle-shaped indent in the front bay window. It would have made a great time-lapse study as over the last few weeks it has gradually morphed into a huge shattered hole. Two houses down that street have since gone up for let. Coincidence? Or were people finally pushed to move by the fact an out-of-town developer has bought a house to sell and just left it while it’s vandalised and they’re left thinking that it’s time to ship out.

That’s why I pick litter regularly in my street. My little boy trundles along with me on his little push bike and we walk around with a litter picker and a black bag. I like where I live I don’t want a few pieces of litter to become the thin edge of the wedge.

When I went to pick the McDonald’s carton up I was spotted by my friend a few doors down who finds my obsession with litter picking quite comical. What can I say? It’s a hobby. Interestingly I only started picking up rubbish when I was walking the streets with my son in his pram. Before that I’d always biked everywhere travelling at speed and not noticing. But sedentary walking with a pram leads you to walking the same pieces of pavement over and over as well as scouring the footpaths for dog poo. And you start to notice things. And once I noticed them they couldn’t be unnoticed. My neighbour suggested that as most people travel to and from their properties by car they simply don’t see the litter. I think she’s right. It took me to slow down to walking pace before I did. But now I see it as part of looking out for my neighbourhood to try to keep it clean. Looking after the little things…

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