Not actually an osprey nest (sorry)

Zen and the Art of Litter Picking

One of the coping mechanisms I’ve adopted is turning negative emotion into positive endevour. Since Jen’s cancer diagnosis, besides having to deal with that, I’ve lost my dad and Jen, her mum. On top of that, the healing trip we had was heavily disrupted (first world problems, right?) because of Chinese wet markets.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve found particularly therapeutic is picking up litter.

Weird, right.

Yeah, I think so too.

But it ties in with my needing to take small, positive steps, it allows me to reflect on my thoughts, it undoes the poor behaviour of literally (hah! ‘liter’aly – phonetics, bitch! Just go with it, OK?) hundreds of people. It allows me to zone out but, most importantly, it gets me moving.

Oh yeah, and do it high as a Nepalese kite.

“Wait. Wut?” I hear you think as you sit there in your Y-fronts and food-stained vest.

Everyone thinks I’m doing the socially responsible thing. And I am. I’ve had a number of people commend my actions and express admiration – but what they don’t realise is I’m pretending to be a cyborg in a search and destroy mechasuit, using the suit to exterminate evil alien creatures. Or variations on the mechasuit theme. The important takeaway is that I really enjoy it.

The search and destroy method involves wandering around randomly with a bucket and picker-upper (which is one of the arm extensions of the mechasuit, obviously – do keep up) until my sweep and scan locks onto a target.

“Grappling arm engaged and slaved to target. Deploying clamp. Target contained.”

Scan and sweep. Scan and sweep.

“Fair play to you, mate!”

I don’t hear them.

They wave from 6 feet away – my mental train wreck a minor issue – I take off the noise cancelling headphones and give them a quizzical smile.

“Say again, fella.”

“I said ‘Fair play to you, mate’.”

“Oh, right. Yeah. No single drop and all that.”

He nods as though he has the slightest fucking clue what I’m talking about. I barely do.

“I’ve got a lot of anger so I channel it through positive action. I find this particularly satisfying being I can undo the ignorance, stupidity and selfishness of thousands of people inside a couple of hours, help prevent the spread of disease, stop people injuring themselves and prevent animals ingesting plastic. I’m inspired by Gandhi who said to be the change you want to see in the world but mostly I realised quite late in life that the path of the individual is destined for death no matter what they do, but the path of the collective isn’t?

Plus it gets me moving about and hopefully stops the wild fowl from eating it. Wait. I’ve already said that.

Since my wife’s cancer…bloody hell, was it really two years ago?…I’ve worked on the basis that no single drop feels responsible for the flood, you know? And there’s this thing called the bystander effect? Plus people don’t want to take personal responsibility. It’s childish, like ‘I didn’t do it, so I shouldn’t have to clean it up.’ Which is a fair enough stance but they act like it isn’t their problem. And that’s what boils my piss. Of course it’s your bloody problem! – you’re actually part of the problem, you numpty!

But a tiny, positive action can have such an immense impact. And they say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Gotta love this weather. I’m pretending to be a space robot, by the way….”

Or words to that effect. I was never good at receiving praise and tend to ramble when high.

Thing is, phrases like the tree one have allowed me to galvanise my mental position. It’s logical. It’s speaks to my kindness. It makes me feel better about myself – particularly when I’m constantly fighting imposter syndrome. And it can be applied to anything, not just planting stuff. Changes in personal behaviour, be it diet, exercise, picking up litter, whatever. Do it now. You could be dead from an aneurysm…NOW!

Still alive? And amazingly still reading?


To date, I have taken 4 black bin liners full of rubbish from a site in Sleaford, a small bag of rubbish on a walk with Jen in Godstone, two carrier bags worth of plastic rubbish from Godstone pond specifically, and three buckets of rubbish from around the pond perimeter and wider Godstone Green.

I have quite literally undone the shit behaviour of thousands of people.

Imagine if hundreds of us did this. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of litter could be contained inside of an hour. And it’s not for a feeling of personal pride. It’s satisfaction that I’m making a positive impact on the wider community and the environment. While sweeping for aliens in my mechasuit.

Of course, you don’t have to be a space robot. I was just using it as an example of the fleeting dumb shit that happens in my brain when I’m a little high. I also have imaginary conversations with people in my head to work through problems.

But you don’t have to pretend to be or do anything. Just float around, focused on the immediate distance – what you can see and know. Drifting where the litter takes you. A problem you can help to solve massively with very little effort. Just spaces near you. That’s all.

Personally I pick to reggae at the moment.

“How about instead of striking on a Friday, kids take positive environmental action. Arm them with PPE (hah!) and decent clamps – they’d become a force of nature. How about as a well payed Saturday job? Maybe get them planting trees. Or growing veg?”

I dunno. Seems obvious to me. It’s not like there’s a shortage of money about town, is there.

And I’m walking along, thinking about a nanotechnology idea I’m messing with when I caught my visual subroutines running and essentially observed myself spotting a particularly cunning piece of debris. It’s weird, because now I’m kind of observing myself observing myself. What’s that about?

Anyway, I’m then thinking about the basics for spotting litter – shapes and colours basically, and that’s how I came up with the idea for a litter drone.

You could have a spotter in the air – highlighting most likely litter items and their locations – provide a storyboard of images that an operator can quickly filter then get a GPS map to the items. Bam!

Ooooor, even more fun, a drone that spots litter but has a human controlled clamp for picking it up and returning it to base. You know you want one. I haven’t looked yet but I imagine they exist….

Feel my moral superiority! Feel it!!

"With my vegan powers I will save these wild fowl!"
Feel my moral superiority! Feel it!

If you drop litter...JUST STOP IT, OK!!!!???