April 12th 2021
The verges of the Thanet Way between Margate and Brenley Corner and the A2 between Barham and Canterbury are strewn with all manner of waste. Last summer the Main Sands of Margate attracted unwelcome national media attention because of the piles of rubbish left behind by day trippers after `a nice day out by the seaside`. Why? What is it in the British psyche that says that it is okay to travel miles from home, have a picnic on the beach and then leave your rubbish behind for someone else to clear up? Why do people wind down a car window and throw not just cigarette ends but empty crisp packets and plastic bottles out onto the roads to create the repository of filth that damages wildlife and shames us as a nation.?
It is not good enough or any kind of excuse the blame “them” or to say that “they” should be clearing the roadsides or empty the trash bins on the seafronts more frequently. It is “us” that is responsible. It is we who severally and collectively fail to take our rubbish home with us or if we are not directly at fault do not try to ensure that other people clear up after themselves.
We hear, from time to time, of the `little old lady` who dropped a bus ticket out of her purse and received an on-the-spot fine for littering or of the person feeding ducks and pigeons in the park who is charged with ` littering. ` We hear very little about people being fined heavily for leaving their trash on our local beaches or slinging their junk out of the car as they drive back home. Again, why?
There is a group of Kent MPs following up on an initiative founded by my colleague Gordon Henderson, the MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, who are promoting the “Litter Angels” campaign through primary schools. In encouraging children to design anti-litter posters, some of which win prizes, we hope that by getting the message across early enough we may stimulate a generation that will no longer think that it is socially acceptable to leave mess on our shores or in our countryside. Like drink-driving or smoking in public places it has to become a practice that marks a person down as anti-social and objectionable.
In the meantime, we know that we almost certainly expect a post-lockdown staycation migration to the seaside as soon as the weather permits. Given the amount of publicity that has been given to the damage to our wildlife and particularly to the world`s oceans caused by plastic waste is it too much to hope that we might as a nation take a modest step towards ridding ourselves of the shame of being the dirtiest race in Europe by just packing up our waste after a good day out and taking it home and disposing of it responsibly? It is not up to “them” but up to each and every one of us to make sure that the land and the waters around our coastline that we hand on to our children and our grandchildren is not just greener but cleaner as well. We can make a start during this coming summer season.