What are we going to do about litter?

I was up Bennachie last Saturday running a beginners navigation course. From the excellent visitor centre, there are good walks all over the hill, follow the Gordon Way, then up to Oxen Craig or straight up to Mither Tap. For learning navigation it’s ideal because there are plenty of path junctions through the trees and up on the hill enough features to cover the techniques required.  Bennachie is what I would call an accessible hill, it’s one of the most popular hill walks for all abilities in Aberdeenshire. You can spend a whole day wandering around or you can head up and down Mither Tap in a couple of hours.

walking up Mither Tap

We decided to follow the Gordon way to the south side of Oxen Craig. It’s a pleasant woodland walk for most of the way, with a good variety of trees and habitats. Capercaillie are known to wander in the woods but unfortunately we didn’t spot any.

Mither Tap

One we reached the top of Oxen Craig I started to notice the litter. I didn’t see that much going through the forest but that probably because the Visitor Centre recently ran a litter collection with the help of Baker Hughes Aberdeen. They bagged a large collection of rubbish that day, which can be seen on their Facebook post. Another litter pick was done not long after this one with another group of volunteers.

Bennachie Facebook post.jpg

Some of the rubbish was perhaps accidentally dropped. Some of it deliberately stashed under a rock as if it would somehow never be seen again. I see this often on my walks, even up some our remotest Munros but thankfully not as much.

Oxen Craig is slightly less accessible than Mither Tap, so the quantity of rubbish escalated significantly by the time we reached the lesser summit (Mither Tap is 11m smaller than Oxen Craig…). Again, it could be that some of this rubbish was accidentally dropped or blown out of hands. I picked up a few items and put them in my bag.

Bennachie is one typical example of rubbish dropped on our hills, glens and lochs. I see it all over the place. On Ben Nevis last year a fantastic team of volunteers picked up 267kg of rubbish on one day, 100kgs more than the year before! Do we have a growing litter problem? It’s hard to imagine what 267kgs of rubbish looks like!

In an effort to reduce littering, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park have restricted access to the park (see my earlier post on wild camping). Reactively, Councils across Scotland spend millions picking up litter each year. According to zerowastescotland.org.uk, tax payers spend £53 million pounds each year cleaning up litter. I’d encourage everyone to have a look at their website and resources within, www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/our-work/litter-resources.

Somehow we have to break a cycle that seems to suggest a little bit of littering is ok. It’s not ok, if you think the direct costs of littering above are bad, have a read of this report on indirect costs. http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/content/exploring-indirect-costs-litter-scotland.

As this report explains, it’s not just about the money, it’s also about the impact to our environment and state of mind. If no one cares about a wee bit of litter why should I care? It’s a spiral into the abyss of crap.

For your accidental litter dropper, here are my tips:

  1. Take a rubbish bag with you on walks and let everyone in your group know about it!
  2. Open your kid’s sweeties for them, they might give you the main part of the sweetie wrapper but the wee bit they tear off will end up on the path.
  3. Use less packaging, you can put sandwiches in a reusable bag and give it a clean out.
  4. Take refillable water bottles, make your own juices.
  5. Take out everything, banana and orange peel takes months to break down.
  6. Learn how to go to the toilet responsibly outside - https://www.mountaineering.scot/assets/contentfiles/pdf/where-to-go-leaflet.pdf

Finally, if you see litter, pick it up, litter attracts litter. Teach your kids about the impacts of litter. Tell them about the impact to our wildlife and costs to clean up (which they will eventually pay for). On this blog I’ve not posted any pictures of litter on beautiful Bennachie, let’s keep it beautiful.

Sunset over Bennachie