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Join #SpringCleanScotland and keep our beloved pets safe

A blog post by Ciaran Vance

With #SpringCleanScotland 2024 well underway, our Communications Officer Ciaran Vance has written about his frustrations with Scotland's litter emergency and how that impacts his dog Theo.

There’s no doubt that litter annoys you more as you get older. In fact, your growing anger, disappointment and desire for change towards litter could probably be considered as predictable as growing taller.

When I was younger I never bothered about litter. Of course, I did the standard litter pick with my primary school when it came around, and we heard regularly why you shouldn’t litter. But, while I never intentionally dropped litter, seeing it around never bothered me. If I’m being honest, it felt like litter was just a part of life. You go to play football and there’s litter all over the park; someone walking by you throws their cigarette butt onto the ground. Cans are kicked down the road without a second thought.

As I get older, these things become more noticeable and the frequency you see them makes it more annoying. The desire for change, the want for a nicer, cleaner place to live grows and the litter becomes an eyesore, it becomes something that really, really frustrates you.

That feeling of frustration led me to joining #TeamKSB in 2022. Coming from a journalism background, I felt like I could bring my skills to help amplify the brilliant work of the people up and down the length of the country who make it a nicer place for us to live and work, and for people to visit. It didn’t take long for my belief that litter was a part of life to disappear, to be replaced by the knowledge that there are people all over working every day in the hope that one day Scotland is litter free.

Another small thing changed in my life in 2022: we brought Theo home. A Cockapoo, Theo is as adventurous as they come, loves nothing more than running around and exploring. Which is great, however our environment – his playground – comes with risk.

As any dog owner will know, dogs – especially puppies – love to pick things up off the ground, regardless of whether we think it’s disgusting or not. Picking strange objects up, having a chew or a sniff. It’s how dogs discover new things. But while Theo loves to pick up sticks, or the ball of a dog who unfortunately took their eye off it for a second, it also isn’t a surprise to see him pick up – or try to pick up – things like plastic bottle lids, pieces of food and takeaway food containers. And while Theo’s very clever and obedient, he does have a typical mischievous side - he loves to run away when he knows he has something he shouldn’t.

Which is how he ended up at the vet’s office at the end of last year. While chasing his frisbee, his attention was grabbed by what I thought was a burst balloon. By the time I got near him it was gone.

A panicked phone call to the vet and a few hundred pounds later, Theo brought it back up. It wasn’t a balloon, it was the skin of a discarded tennis ball. While the cost of this procedure hurt my wallet, it was nothing compared to the worry that this may be a danger to my dog.

And that’s just one example. He’s eaten a bottle cap or two, and a piece of food on the ground will be swallowed without hesitation unless I spot it first. And I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had to carry Theo five or 10 yards because a path has been covered in broken glass.

This is just my experience. Everyone will have their own grievances with litter. The Scottish Litter Survey showed 90% of people agree that litter is a problem across Scotland, the highest figure in three years. We know that it’s an issue and we want to support everyone to help make a difference.

#SpringCleanScotland 2024 is now underway. Every year we’re blown away by the thousands of determined and dedicated people who roll up their sleeves to address Scotland’s litter emergency. Everyone has a part to play, and every piece of litter – whether it’s a tiny piece of paper or a 20-bag haul – makes a difference.

I recently joined colleagues to do an hour long litter pick near where I grew up – we collected 11 bags of waste in just an hour – and while some of it was disgusting, we removed potentially harmful waste from an area where dogs, and other wildlife, will now be able to roam without risk of injury. In just one hour we made a huge difference to an area and massively reduced the chance of harm to our beloved pets.

Let’s all make an effort to keep Scotland beautiful. Theo and his friends deserve to explore our wonderful country without our fear or hesitation. It’s their world too.

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