How It All Started

Litter Art by Average Gradient

How It All Started

Litter had annoyed me for years. I used to pick up the odd bit but in January 2020 enough was enough. On the 12th January I took two of our three children to Derbyshire for a walk and decided I would pick up every piece of litter I saw. I thought I would pick up about 6 items, which of course would have been 6 too many. It ended up being about 22 items! (see below).   I couldn't believe it. We were in the countryside, away from the masses, and there was this much litter polluting the planet. At that moment it suddenly dawned on me how much litter there must be everywhere else. That day changed my life forever, there was only one way forward. Once you start picking litter you see it everywhere…absolutely bloody everywhere. You can no longer ignore it like you did before, like the majority of the population do. The urge to pick it up is too strong. It's like a drug...a good drug! You obviously can't pick up every piece, otherwise you would never get anywhere, but you see it...and it pisses you off no end.

I started picking litter. I picked it when out walking to begin with, family walks, taking the kids to school etc… I then started picking a few bits up whilst running, and before I knew it I was taking a bag out on every run. I also picked up the odd bit when out on my early morning bike rides (bit trickier on a bike…and not as easy to carry a bag!).

Then in June 2020 (when we were allowed out again after lockdown) I picked up my first face mask (see below). I had just cycled up and down, and then run up the mighty Great Dun Fell in Cumbria. On my stroll back down I spotted a mask and couldn't ignore it, despite all the scare mongering that was going on about Covid and touching things etc...

To see a mask in a place of such beauty was just too much. That was the first…and at the time of writing this (12th July 2021) I have picked up 2,479.5 of the fuckers. How do I know…because I keep a spreadsheet…and have a photo of pretty much every single face mask I have picked up. I despise them…I absolutely fucking despise them with a passion.I now pick litter pretty much all the time. Walking, running, on the bike. I obviously don't pick up every piece I see, that just isn't possible. But I am trying my best, trying my best to do something. It's not my litter, I didn't drop it…but it is my planet, and it is my kid’s planet…and doing something is better than doing nothing.

It is absolutely everywhere and unfortunately it isn't going anywhere in a hurry. Look around properly…look in the hedges…look by the side of the roads…look down the streets…look on the tram lines…look absolutely anywhere and you will see it, whether it be a plastic bottle or a cigarette butt. You know it's there…we all know it's there.

Thank you to anybody who picks up litter, no matter how much or how little. You are trying, and it is appreciated by many of us.

I love lots of things about Britain, but I don't love the litter (or Shit as I prefer to call it). 

We do not live in Great Britain…we live in Shit Britain.

A few facts:

- 1 Cigarette butt pollutes 500 litres of water

- It takes 450 years for face masks to decompose in nature, but over time they will break down into microplastics that are likely to get ingested by fish and other sea animals. 

- Plastic does not decompose. This means that all plastic that has ever been produced and has ended up in the environment is still present there in one form or another

* If everybody picked up once piece of litter a day just imagine the difference it would make.


* Massive thanks to The English Snail and 1 Piece Of Rubbish for this. A big inspiration.


All Photographs Copyright of Average Gradient