Why I am a Litter Picker

21/07/2016 10:08 | Updated 21 July 2016

It has always been there, but now more so than ever. It is getting worse and dangerous, and it stands for a social attitude that I do not share: indifferently smashed up glass and discarded litter. And I am not a grumpy so and so just moaning. I am really worried about what it says about our society and the direction we may be heading for.

I live by a river, which attracts a variety of human and animal beings. Anglers, dog walkers, people on their way to work and back; children on their way to school and back; older people alone or couples in their cars, eating, reading the paper with a flask of coffee or tea; people napping in their cars; people on benches. In the evenings, more people; legs dangling out of cars; some more or less romantic meet ups; people on benches idling the evening away in conversation, debate; music, the smell of legal and illegal smokes; people in campers or other vans staying overnight, for days and weeks and months. Dogs, herons, ducks, pigeon, fish; people on boats; people threatening to jump; RNLI boats occasionally racing up and down on call outs. You get the picture.

And in the mornings, on my first walk of the day with my dog, the place is usually empty of people; but the place is full of litter and broken glass. And it reflects a growing underbelly of what is not on full display during the day: the 'I don't care', 'I smash it up', 'Not my problem', 'What are you looking at' society. And you do not need to live where I do, to know what I mean.

Yes, the foxes and crows pull at the over-flowing bins; and yes, the council does not empty the bins as much as they probably should; and yes, the street sweepers may not sweep as much as they probably should.

But an increasing number of people clearly cannot be bothered to put their rubbish in the bins or take it home. Take-away wrappers, containers, cutlery, bottles, cans... they are all left there, just dumped. Often with many balloons and laughing gas canisters.

So, on most days I pick up litter. And on some days I wonder whether I am prolonging this state of affairs, because I, like others, tidy away a problem and make it invisible. If I don't litter pick, will I then become complicit in this 'I don't care', anti-social, anti-community, selfish and irresponsible and indifferent attitude?

Some early morning walkers bring bags along with them and gloves. You never know what you may pick up. Some months ago, my dog cut all of its four paws. We are not fully sure how, but with the amount of smashed up glass lying about, the risk for animals, children, all of us is clear.

And it leaves me with mixed feelings and an anger and frustration, which I am trying hard not to let take over and turn into social resignation.

But while I think and write about topics like how to cope with feeling alienated from relationships and society, how not to fear depression, how to cope with life after cancer, how to cope with grief and bereavement ... while I want to pass on something and give meaning to some of my own battles and difficulties, people are parading close to where I live and they clearly do not give a whatnot.

But I do give a whatnot, and will continue to give a whatnot and those who don't give a whatnot now, might do so sometime in their lifetime.

In the meantime, it takes us involuntary litter pickers to hold it all together.

Karin Sieger
is a London-based psychotherapist and writer. Her blog is Between Self and Doubt. For more information visit