Rubbish London: 5 Bits of Trash on London Streets

This article will talk candidly about the UK’s problems with litter. Basically, the UK and British people don’t really care that our country is a tip. Or maybe we just don’t notice it anymore.

Before I get to the list of 5 bits of rubbish you will find on London Streets, let’s look to the future…


A great writer wrote something along the lines that a civilisation can be evaluated by the state of detritus that it leaves behind.

Imagine a thousand years in the future, after global warming, sea levels rising, a catastrophic nuclear powerplant break-down, meteorite or any other disaster has brought an end to civilisation as we know it . A future civilisation has rebuilt itself and begins to excavate the streets of London. What will they find? And what will it tell us about the state of our people today.

Here is a possible scenario, centuries in the future:

The professor points at a pile of rock. “Can anyone tell me what this is?”

A student hazards a guess – “some kind of ancient pottery, sir”

“Very good, but it is far to uneven for that. If you take a look at the uneven shapes and textures, you will see that this is actually fossilised vomit.”

“Fossilised vomit!”, the students say surprised.

“Yes”, the professor continues. “In this period, it was common for men and women to drink excessively and vomit on the streets at any time of the day or night. Usually it would be left to the local council to clean it, but more than often it was left to the elements, in other words …rain.”

“And this?” He points to another object.

A student ventures “it is an animal bone”

“Yes, good”, the professor says, “But what kind of bone?”

“By the size of it, I’d say a small bird and looking at the teeth marks in it, it was probably hunted and then eaten by an ancient Landoner”, the student surmised.

“Good hypothesis” the professor praised, “but not quite right. If you look at this fossilized debris surrounding it, you can see it was in a ‘takeaway box’. And judging by the size and fragility of the bone, it was likely a factory farmed breed, not a wild breed making it unlikely to be hunted. You may have heard of such things”

“You mean the famed Kuntucky fried chicken?” a student asked.

“No more likely a cheaper variation. In this case, this character ‘P’ here, suggests it was a ‘Perfect fried chicken’ variety. You see, many of the ancient Landoners were fed on a daily diet of fried chicken, eaten from boxes and discarded usually at bus stops on or the top decks of buses – their ancient transportation system.They would be accompanied by fried potatoes otherwise known as chips. There are thousands of these specimens found all throughout the city suggested that the ancient Landoners were slobs and had no respect for their surroundings or for animals”.

‘I see” the students responded.

“And finally, this large object, what do you make of it?” the professor asked.

“It appears to be some kind of box. Could it be for storing things in? Although it a little bit too thin for that and there is some glass. Perhaps it was for decoration?”. One student surmised.

“Alas, no”, the professor answered. “This is a flatscreen TV”.

A student squeaked up “Oh yes, TV! I have heard of that – Information presenting devices. They were really valuable in these times. Only a few people had them and neighbours would all gather round and watch ‘programmes’ together in shared community spirit”.

The Professor cleared his throat. “Yes, there are records that such things happened at one point, but over time they became cheap and undervalued and people would end up discarding them on street corners along with other types of household furnishings – worn out bed mattresses, broken fridges, microwave ovens, even toilets. Again they would be left for the local council to remove or as was more likely – for the elements, that it… the rain”.

The British people and litter

The UK has a litter problem. Walk the streets of London or any city and you’ll see it. And I’m not talking about Oxford Street (tourist central) – where they hire a large number of cleaners. I’m talking about all the normal streets where people live, work and go about their daily business.

The morning after

Some morning, I will walk the street and see debris all over the place. Black bin bags will be piled up (yet it’s not a bin collection day). Some of them will have been torn open by the local wildlife, either foxes or rats or perhaps some strange hybrid mix of the two. The rats I’ve seen in London are pretty big, almost like dogs and as for the foxes…

I should add, that I grew up in the countryside and the foxes there are rather splendid red looking things with bushy hair. But in London, they are rather mangy looking things – more like stray dogs.

Japan has no litter problem

It’s a bit different in Japan. Dropping litter is strongly disapproved of. The streets are generally spotless. I even saw a group of school kids being sent to pick up litter in a local train station (even though there wasn’t any). In the UK, the opposite happens. School kids will voluntarily drop litter in train stations.

Also I saw groups of elderly people specifically volunteering to go out and pick up rubbish in order to improve their society. They even had a special uniform. Can you imagine this happening in the UK? Or anywhere else? I suppose it’s a kind of universal balance. They clean up litter whereas we drop it.

You get used to it, till it becomes normal

You kind of get used to walking though litter strewn streets in the early morning. By the evening, it will all be cleaned up again thanks to the magic of the council (with my money!). But to be honest. Given the choice of being forced (by risk of court summons or imprisonment) to pay a hundred pounds extra a month on council tax or just live in a society where people weren’t lazy slobs, then I’d choose the latter.

On the other hand, maybe I’m the one who’s got this wrong. I am being forced to pay a ridiculous amount of council tax each month so the streets are cleaned up. Shouldn’t I be taking advantage of this service? Aren’t I the sucker? We’ve heard of the five pieces of fruit and veg, we’re supposed to be eating everyday. Well, perhaps, I should be dropping  at least five pieces of garbage. I can take a pick from the following list.

Rubbish London: 5 bits of trash you will find on London streets

Well anyway, as per the title of this post, here are 5 bits of rubbish you will find on London streets:

  1. A discarded copy of that free newspaper the Metro. Not particularly needed, as people can read the news on their smartphones now, but what else should we be doing with all those trees, I hear no one ask.
  2. Chewing Gum. Not that I chew gum, but why should I deprive my fellow city dwellers, the wonderful sensation of your shoes sticking to the carpet.
  3. A half eaten box of fried chicken and chips, and tomato sauce of course. Or maybe just the chicken bones by itself. Something to feed the pigeons with. By the way, have you seen some of the pigeons? I think they prove that cannibalism and a predominantly junk food diet causes deformities.
  4. Empty crisp/chocolate wrapper/empty can/bottle of fizzy soft drink. There is something hypnotic about an empty bottle rolling from one end of the top deck of a bus to the other. It’s like some kind of perpetual motion machine.
  5. And finally, at least some piece of household furniture – broken TV, microwave oven, broken wardrobe or my personal favourite – a skanky looking bed mattress. eeuugh.

Watch your step.

Parts of this article were written a couple of years ago and I wonder if it goes against the general tone of my other more recent work. If it comes across as too negative or critical I think it reflects some of my mindset from that time and I hope that it not indicative of my work today as I am moving to becoming more forgiving and more positive.

London streets are for the most part kept clean thanks to the council, but I do feel a lot of people drop trash without thinking of the consequences on society and our streets. Basically it is a selfish act.