Rubbish Surveys

I’m always doubtful of the scientific rigour behind the surveys that make up much of the daily fare in the media, especially when the surveys and commissioned and published by vested interest groups.

Take this story from the Manchester Evening News. Keep Britain Tidy reckon that Greggs, McDonalds and Subway account for 41% of litter in the city. This isn’t strictly true as it is the people who drop the wrappers who are responsible, not the vendors, but you get the point.

I don’t doubt that fast food packaging is a problem. It’s the world we’ve created, one of fast food on the run and no-one giving a damn about what they do with the detritus. But some of the other figures looked decidedly odd.

For example, last year’s survey showed chewing gum wrappers made up 30% of street litter – but this has fallen dramatically to only 2%. That’s a significant change in anyone’s book and yet no reason is given as to why this should be so.

I doubt if chewing gum consumption has become infra dig overnight, at least not judging by the amount of gum you see splodged on the pavement, so have the manufacturers changed the packaging to something biodegradable? If so, shouldn’t they be sharing their secret with the greasy spoons?

There is a converse oddity in the national figures. It is claimed that cigarette packets make up 61% of litter, up from 14% last year. How can that be if smoking is meant to be on the decrease? Is it some sort of subliminal marketing ploy by BAT — strategically placed empty packets as street furniture?

Chief executive Phil Barton says: “We need to make a change so that this country is no longer a place where it is, seemingly, acceptable to throw litter.”

Which is both true and laudable, but I’d rather he answered the gum wrapper/ fag packet conundrum first.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

1 comment… Add yours
  • Jay from The Depp Effect 13th April 2011

    Well, you know what Mark Twain said: ‘There are lies, damned lies, and statistics’. You can make the numbers say what you will if you’re willing to spin them enough.

    You’re right of course, these quoted percentages cannot all be correct. Of course, here in my village it seems that the litter is divided fairly equally between McDs, the secondary school, and the fish, chips and chicken van. Had to yank a chicken bone out of my dog’s mouth only last night on our ‘dark’ walk. *Sigh*

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