Zsuzsa Farrell: 20 weird things we found on Leith litter picks

A crash-landing for Mary Poppins
A crash-landing for Mary Poppins
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You are what you drop. Here’s a tip for marketing folks to save money on research. Go out and pick up litter. It’s amazing how much you’ll find out.

You’ll learn what Leith’s favourite prescription drug is. You’ll also know it’s payday based on the number of discarded scratch cards. You’ll discover that a new ice cream shop opened at The Shore because their branded napkins are whirling in the wind. You’ll notice which is the leading fast food, snack, beer or soft drink brand. Watch out Irn-Bru. Last Sunday the empty Coke cans outnumbered yours in the gutter. You’ll be surprised that the producers can’t get the portion sizes right. So many half-eaten sandwiches, half-drunk bottles everywhere.

You’ll turn into an amateur shrink trying to unlock the mysterious behaviour of the rebellious yet conscientious litterers: they’re the ones who carefully hide their rubbish behind junction boxes instead of putting it into the bin right next to it.

You’ll also realise that litter and social status don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Litter and ignorance do. On our weekly litter picks Gerry and I regularly find takeaway packaging that comes from hipster bars with gluten-free vegan menus, while others are cheap polystyrene boxes from neighbourhood chippies (seagulls prefer the latter).

Most litter is just nasty but some have a real story to tell. Like the picture frame I found in pieces next to Cables Wynd House. There was also a photo torn in two. A young couple kissing each other.

When you find a nursing bottle you’ll immediately think of a hungry baby. When you pick up the pieces of a burst balloon you’ll think of the tears of an inconsolable toddler. When you see a lost half pair of high heels next to three empty prosecco bottles you’ll think of her walk of shame in the early morning with a splitting headache.

The saddest pieces of rubbish I remember was a plastic bag full of teddy bears chucked under a bush and a pile of little girl’s clothes dumped in a phone booth together with a “sharps” box full of used needles.

Some finds are seasonal. Like the fake blood tube, a severed finger and a plastic skull that we picked up around Hallowe’en.

Some are totally off-season like the Christmas cards and the Santa hat we found after Easter.

Some are very moody. There was a strange kind of melancholy lingering around the butterfly collection we spotted on the top of a bin in Parliament Street. Although the display was carefully wrapped in a plastic bag, the rain had already washed off the gorgeous glittery scales from their broken wings. Maybe the owner simply didn’t have the heart to throw these once beautiful creatures into the minging darkness of a landfill bin.

If you’d like to discover treasures like this every day you’re very welcome to join our Leith litter picks. Or, if you don’t like getting your hands dirty, just like our Facebook page: facebook.com/Leithersdontlitter.