Armed with gloves, garbage claws and bags, 15 students set to work on prying cigarette butts from underneath bushes and lifting cans from the banks of the loch as part of a campus clean-up.
Despite the academic year being over for many, there are still a number of students milling about the campus, unaware of the litter around them.
One of the volunteers of the latest litter pick up, Jess, points out the irony for needing to do this at the University of Stirling campus as, she recalled, “we were voted number one for campus environment…”
“You go around campus and there’s absolutely stunning scenery so to see people desecrating that, it’s not good enough,” said another volunteer when asked why he got involved.
He also added that he felt the high living costs on campus were partly to blame for the amount of litter, stating: “disrespect breeds disrespect.”
Disabled Students Officer, Sonny Bailey, chose to organise the event in conjunction with the end of exam party season as he knew this would result in a lot of litter. “When people get drunk, they don’t care much about their surroundings.”
“It’s our little community, we want to keep it clean,” one of the volunteers says, “having events like this is more effective than posters. Maybe establishing a regular litter pick could get more people involved.”
Other volunteers suggest that avenues such as Portal and student emails be used to advertise these events to increase turn out.
Matthew Woodthorpe, Environmental Coordinator stated that the “normalisation of throwing away cigarette butts is partly to blame. Throwing away litter is not high on people’s priorities.”
4.5 trillion cigarettes butts are littered every year making them the most littered item globally, and they take an estimated 5 to 400 years to break down.
In a previous litter picking drive, students were able to collect 34 kilograms of rubbish in just 2 hours from Gowan Hill. “People from the public were saying thank you to the students, it’s really rewarding, and it has an immediate impact on the national environment,” Woodthorpe added.
There have been some brilliant ideas throughout the years to encourage people to throw their rubbish in the bin, and not on the ground. The most successful of these campaigns have been fun, eye-catching and memorable.
One such campaign was rolled out in London and Edinburgh, in which ballot bins were used for users to vote on important topics such as the best Trainspotting character. By placing their used cigarettes in a column, users got to vote, litter and you’d miss out on the fun. This caused cigarette butt littering to fall to 18% at one point according to Zero Waste Scotland, as well as sparking a social media frenzy.
What’s the answer for Stirling? More bins, brighter posters, higher fines?
It seems like such a small thing to ask, but some people can’t seem to break the habit of ditching their trash anywhere but a bin.