Documentally’s 5 Things You Can Do to Cut Single-use Plastics

Documentally said he was working on a post for his newsletter. It contained five suggestions to help people cut back on single-use plastics. I replied that if he sent me the draft, I’d illustrate it. Instead of a simple list, he sent me complete cartoon ideas—all of which were better than I could have come up with.

Here are two of his tips. (The rest, along with the cartoons are at: A quiver of stories [165]. (I think his newsletter is so good, I pay for the additional content.)

1. Use reusable shopping bags

5. Drink wine with a natural cork stopper

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How to Dig a Shallow Grave

The corpse’s head slipped off my shovel into the long grass.

I panicked. “Fukkityfukkity,” I said, rooting around to recover it. Nowhere to be seen. Here I am digging a shallow grave in the dusk light and I’ve only gone and lost the victim’s head.

Pull yourself together man. Get rid of the big stuff. Bury the torso and limbs. Worry about the head later. If I can’t see it, random passersby won’t either. Probably.

The pickaxe and shovel might draw their eye, though. Cross that bridge when we get to it.

The pickaxe hit a stone. A big one. Only a few centimetres under surface. The impact of the steel on rock echoed around the garden. Just my luck. A third of an acre in which to dispose of the corpse and I hit some builder’s rubble straightaway. I looked about to see whether I’d been discovered. Nothing stirred.

Using the pickaxe, I leveraged the slab up out of the ground. Bingo! The hole was big enough for the headless rabbit. I slid its body into the earth using the shovel and lowered the stone down.

Still no sign of the head. I mean, how the bloody hell does a cat take the head clean off a rabbit? Does she have a chainsaw? God, I hope not. Now we’ve discovered she’s a raging psychotic murderer, the last thing we need is for her to have access to power tools.

Don’t be stupid, man. How could a cat operate a chainsaw? Just accept that she ripped the head off with her bare teeth. Jaysus, she’s terrifying.

Where the fukkity is the head? If one of the kids discovers it, we’ll be paying psychologists’ bills for a decade.

There it is!

Most of it, anyway.

I levered up the slab again and kicked the head into the hole.

A quick look about. All good. My complicity in covering up the murder had gone unnoticed. The things we do for love.

Kitten is going to wear a collar with a bell from now on. Possibly a cowbell.

Getting it on her is going to require stealth and guile.

Make sure all the power tools are locked away first, though.

Not All Dog Owners Are Morons

The first time I saw a plastic bag of dog poo growing on a tree, I had to have a closer look. How could such a miracle exist? A dog poo tree. It’s the kind of thing I expect to read about in the Book of Revelations. Maybe it’s in there? (I’ve never actually read the Book of Revelations because I’m anxious I won’t like what it says about me.)

I’m not saying dog poo on the pavement is attractive, but it is organic and nature knows what to do with it. Putting it in a plastic bag and tying it to the branch of a tree seems silly to me. It’s not like the environment isn’t choking on enough plastic as it is.

Of course, the bags could be compostable, which would downgrade the offence from pollution to littering.

It’s cruel to the dog as well. Imagine how ever so proud they must feel when master (or mistress) takes the effort to collect their business in a special bag. Perhaps, for a fleeting moment, they think it’s going into a special display cabinet at home? The kind of conversation piece you gather your dinner guests around? But no. Doggy’s pride is smashed when you abandon their poo on the branch of a tree. Out of reach even for other dogs to enjoy.

I bet the squirrels and the birds aren’t pleased either. Or the tree.

Of course, not all dog owners are morons. Some leave the poo right there on the pavement for you to step in.

Plogging & the Evil Side of Running

The runner in front of me was going like a geyser. At regular intervals, she would bite the head off a plastic sachet of energy gel and spit it on to the ground. Then she’d squeeze the living carbohydrates out of it and cast the drained sachet on to the ground with dismissive flair. She had a belt full of gels, all stashed like a gunslinger’s bullets around her waist.

She wasn’t the only one spewing. Sachets were raining all around me. No need for the organisers to mark next year’s course. It was already being done. Just follow the trail of empty energy gel sacs and energy bar wrappers. They’d still be there. Plastic and foil don’t degrade quickly.

The water stations were even worse. Runner after runner snatched a water bottle, took a swig, maybe two, and hurled it aside like a water grenade. Thousands of bottles covered the road for hundreds of metres after each water point. (You’ll deduce from this that I’m a back-of-the-pack marathon runner.) Teams of volunteers hoovered them up as best they could. For weeks afterwards you’d still find discarded bottles, though. What was the unit cost of those few precious gulps taken by each runner?

The litterbugs were applauded

The littering happened in front of an appreciative audience. The people lining the streets all clapped as we ran past, merrily littering their city. The police took no action. Nobody was fined. Maybe the penalty was included in the entry fee?

There must be a better way.

Paper cups at marathon aid stations? Make it mandatory for runners to carry their own reusable cups? Expulsion from the race if you get caught intentionally ejecting a spent energy gel wrapper on to the course?

What can runners do to improve things?

Anti-litter running #plogging

This is where I was going to announce a global movement. But it failed even before it started.

Here is the genius thought I had while out for a run last week:

What if runners committed to picking up litter instead of distributing it?

I wondered what would happen if runners committed to picking up at least one piece of litter and disposing of it properly every time they went for a run?

If you run three times a week, 50 weeks a year, you’d take 150 pieces of litter out of the environment over the course of 12 months. Most of this will be foil and plastic. Stuff that is choking nature, our oceans especially.

Imagine picking up three pieces of litter each time you went for a run. You’d clear up 450 pieces of litter a year. From there, my mind raced to a million runners all following my glorious example and collecting half a billion pieces of litter annually. I’d be hailed a hero, possibly a saviour. I’d almost certainly be invited to posh dinners.

Well, I was wrong. So very wrong.

Somebody has already thought of it. It’s called plogging. Erik Ahlström invented it in Sweden in 2016. Initially, I clung on to the hope that it was a hoax. It doesn’t sound likely that Swedes litter, but it turns out they do. Maybe everyone does, with the obvious exception of Japanese football fans.

So Erik beat me to it. All the glory shall be his. I wonder whether he’ll let me go to the posh dinners he can’t attend?

Here is what I collected on today’s run:

Litter collected on a run in Glanmire on 6th May 2019

Free Book: Roger & Hercule

RogerAndHercule-Inside

I ran several marathons in 2017. I wanted to go longer in 2018 and signed up for the 58km Kerry Way Ultra Lite.

The universe decided otherwise.

In May 2018, I was diagnosed with cancer. So I did find myself in an endurance event. Just not the kind I had been looking for.

I wrote a book.

Most of it is funny.

Some of it isn’t.

You can download the PDF version for free here: Roger & Hercule.