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Marina Kim is a journalist working in London. Her website is www.marinakim.co.uk. Follow Marina on Twitter.

To litter or not to litter – that isn't a question

Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 07.45.41“Do
not litter!” – should be the new eleventh commandment of drivers and
their filthy passengers. The Lord is keeping an eye on you. Sinners will be
reprimanded in a lengthy phone call.

At 75,
Lord Selsdon, that very eagle-eyed man who spotted and consequently made calls to littering culprits, is old enough to get away with murder. Perhaps
that is why he cared enough to do something about litter. This is your Big Society
in action. Yes, he crossed the line by using his contacts to obtain private
phone numbers – if true, that was rather naughty for a peer – but I like to
think of him being like a strict schoolteacher, annoying us all for our own
benefit.

This
story to me isn't about phone calls or even new pointless laws which the police
will have no resources to implement. It's about litter – and what our changing
attitude to litter tells us about our society:

  • Littering has become a
    very middle-class thing to do. It is no longer just the louts. Don't believe
    me? Well, check out any SW train full of the well-heeled and the well-suited.
    Discarded latte cups, empty M&S bags and newspapers abound while bins,
    located near the exit, yearn
    for food but remain empty.
  • The Conservative peer Lord Marlesford
    proposed to fine people caught throwing rubbish out of a vehicle – and it is  thus obvious
    we are becoming very reliant on laws to regiment every aspect of our lives.
    Where has common sense and common decency gone? Society is fast losing its
    most powerful tool – the sense of shame, and hence its ability to self-regulate. If you make laws for everything you are treating people like
    children, and people then become like children. The spiral goes on.
  • We are afraid to
    reprimand anti-social behaviour. Would we do anything if we saw someone
    littering or leaving that cup on the train? No, most of us are either too
    scared or couldn't be bothered. 

The
culture of putting rubbish in the bin is just not there. A very nice and
incredibly polite guy called Sam explained to me the other day his reasons for
leaving rubbish on the tube: “I feel it’s ok to leave a finished cup of coffee
on the tube if I put it down on a surface. I won’t throw it away on the street,
but it seems ok if it’s on a surface of some sort. Also, once the train reaches
the depot there is a guy who goes around to pick up all the rubbish.”

So
there we have it. It has become too acceptable to rely upon other people to
look after you in society. Sam couldn’t quite answer when I asked him: “What
about those commuters in between the time you got off and the final stop?”

Some
say the absence of rubbish bins is partly to blame. But these incidents happen
despite the presence of bins at some stations. In any case, generations before us would have taken their rubbish home
with them. It is becoming a norm, part of our culture. Just as it is a norm to
throw away cigarette butts on the pavement. You won’t see that in Germany or
Switzerland! It’s just not culturally acceptable. We have fines in place but in
practice they are never implemented. 

Others
blame the arrival in recent years of free newspapers which the majority of us
feel is ok, and even a moral duty to leave behind for the next commuter. Well,
you do risk insulting a Labour-voter by leaving a Torygraph behind. Much safer
to leave a neutral and free Evening Standard. But then these are the details… 

Jokes
aside, respect for your fellow human
being, not the laws, should define our daily interactions with each other. If
anything, I am grateful to Lord Selsdon for highlighting this issue. His alleged
methods aside, oh if only there were still more like him.

Barclays' Secret

The
only thing the Barclays-supported bike hire scheme has convinced me to do is
not to bank with Barclays. If they cannot get bike hire right, God forbid
giving them my money.

The
docking stations are often full past 5pm, and a tired commuter who has just
cycled in this heat from Canary Wharf to Chelsea has to spend even more time
and effort trying to locate a station with empty locks. In the morning, you have
to try at least one or two bikes to finally tear off a lazy sod from its
comfortable nest. No wonder it didn’t want to move, it is so heavy and clumsy
that it’s embarrassed of its performance on the roads… But then again you won’t
need a gym with such a serious workout for your legs.

What a
waste of money. If they got it right (plus provided enough safe cycling routes)
then many more people would have adopted a healthy cycling lifestyle. Perhaps
there wouldn’t have been a need for a 100 per cent increase in price on the sly over
the Christmas holidays this year. 

There
I was in contempt of Barclays for not being able to get it right. But last week
I stood corrected as it was revealed that the bank has not actually bankrolled
the whole thing, only a sixth, and the rest, i.e. £11million per year, has been
taken out of taxpayers’ purses. So, for a sixth of the cost Barclays got itself
a pretty good advertising deal. Not such a bad bank after all.

Everything
is clear now. Barclays bikes are run as all public sector companies are meant
to be run: pretty useless, and nobody wants to take responsibility and correct
it. I think I’ll walk instead.

Genius Boris

How else would you call a man who is about to persuade the
Chinese to spend Chinese money to bring Chinese tourists to London? London
desperately needs to increase its airport facilities to bring in business and
tourists. Even the frogs get more Chinese big spenders than London does. If
Boris pulls off building a new mega-airport on the Isle of Grain at someone
else’s expense, even his most fierce critics would have to take hats off their bolding heads to
this not-just-a-pretty-face Blondie.

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