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a blog by Chris Barrow

Refuse, face masks and shopping bags

A long time ago I spent a month on a sub-tropical Pacific island, taking part in a survival show. One of the things that didn't make the TV screens was the acres of human refuse that washed up on the Western shore every morning. I particularly recall single flip flops and used toothbrushes, both of which were put to good use (yuk).

During our recent stay in Greece, it was a little disturbing to be throwing all of our refuse - bottles, cans, paper, organic waste - into the same bin liner and periodically carrying that down the steps to a large skip on the street below.

We have become so well trained to recycle at home that it jarred my conscience.

I don't consider myself an environmental activist but I did welcome the email from EasyJet that told me that our flights to and from Kefalonia were carbon-neutral. We are also a one-car family, although that's more to do with saving my soul from the exasperations of the motorway system than it is about saving the planet.

Many years ago, Les Jones entertained workshop audiences by sharing photos of the single industrial gloves that one finds discarded at the roadside. Even to this day, when I pass one on my bike, I think of Les and wonder how they get there?

Nowadays, the gloves are still there but are outnumbered by discarded face masks.

How does that happen? Are there folks who just throw them to one side as they exit a store, like cigarette dimps, or is there some fundamental design malfunction that has them spontaneously falling from our pockets and bags (or off our faces) in a way that we don't notice?

Finally, on the subject of environmental habits - answer me this question:

How come we check to see if we have a face mask every time we leave the house - but we all have a huge collection of plastic shopping bags in a kitchen cupboard, because we can't check to see if we have them (or the canvas variety) in the car before we go to the supermarket?

It strikes me there are three rules at work here:

Rule#1 (the face mask rule) - if our lives or livelihood are directly threatened, we will embrace a new habit;

Rule #2 (the Boris rule) - if the Government make it the law, we do as we are told;

Rule #3 (the optional rule) - if it's optional we are probably too busy thinking about other things (Rules 1 & 2 included) to create the habit.

Once more, we are reminded that "there's nowt so queer as folk."

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