This page is regularly updated, please select here to view the latest version.
Every March, Keep Britain Tidy hold their Great British Spring Clean and this year it ran from 17th March to 2nd April. But what has this got to do with the Rec?........and what is its relevance to Nature? Well, the answer to both, is ‘plenty’.
Litter is becoming the scourge of our countryside, towns, rivers, seas and our parks. But not only does it look unsightly and pose certain health and safety risks, it is potentially lethal for wildlife.
I’d like to share with you a couple of incidents that I’ve observed, which really brought home to me the dangers of littering for animals. We were driving through the New Forest one day and I spotted a cow with a large plastic bottle in its mouth. We stopped and I tried to approach the cow to take the bottle away, but to my horror it proceeded to chew it and then swallow it whole. I immediately reported the incident, but I really didn’t rate that animal’s chance of survival. On another occasion we came across a pigeon with blue nylon twine wound around its legs, binding them together. It was clearly distressed. On this occasion, we were thankfully able to remove the twine, much to the bird’s relief, and ours! To my knowledge, wildlife injury due to littering hasn’t happened at the Rec, but could very easily do so.
We are very fortunate in that we have 2 volunteers who pick up litter on a regular basis, as do the Council, and sometimes the gardening group. But it’s an ongoing task and the discarded items pose an ever present threat to the birds, hedgehogs and other creatures that frequent the Rec. Crisp and sweet packets, cans and plastic bottles, cigarette butts, gas canisters, and increasingly, vaping cartridges, are amongst the items we regularly find.
Cigarette butts are a particularly insidious form of littering, partly because many people are unaware of their noxious effects on the environment. During the summer months we get lots of them scattered around the picnic tables in the garden area and around the benches. These filters contain non-biodegradable plastic and hundreds of toxic chemicals which can persist in the environment for many years. They’ve even been proven to inhibit plant growth and are very harmful to riverine and marine life, if they find their way into these habitats.
Plastic in all its forms is a ubiquitous threat. Animals and birds become trapped in containers such as bottles and cups, and caught up in can holders and the elastic straps on face masks; these can tighten as the animals struggle to free themselves. This fox was found in Cherry Hinton Hall Park,Cambridge last year (Image: Olya Murshudova/Facebook)
A newly identified consequence of our total reliance on plastic, is that seabirds are ingesting so much, that they’re developing a condition scientist have called plasticosis. Their digestive tracts becomes scarred and fibrotic affecting their digestion. This then creates problems with the birds’ growth and ultimately, their survival. As if our colonies of seabirds, which are of worldwide importance, don’t already suffer multiple threats!!!
And there’s recently been a lot of publicity locally about the plastic pollution at our nearby Nature Reserve of Chessel Bay. Small plastic pellets, known as nurdles, occur in their hundreds of thousands along the high tide line. A not- for –profit company has recently been hoovering them up with the help of local volunteers. Much of the plastic comes from 3 nearby companies, but that certainly doesn’t absolve us from our responsibilities. Litter that is dropped at the Rec and elsewhere gets blown around and can end up being washed down the drains, finding its way to rivers and seas, and sometimes washing up in places such as Chessel Bay.
There is no doubt, that as a society we need to address the huge, dangerous and costly problem of littering, and seriously reduce our dependence on single use plastics. But we can start locally and all do our bit to keep our neighbourhood litter-free, including our precious Portswood Rec.
Words by Denise Long
Click on any photo to enlarge