Litter is a growing problem in every country of the world. Population growth, globalisation and the development of the 'throw-away society' have led to what is rapidly becoming an unmanageable level of global waste. We cannot avoid all waste but here are some highlights:


Increased global trade in food products and consumer goods has led to more and stronger packaging, especially using plastic materials, to ensure goods can travel long distances and arrive in good condition.


  re-use packaging when you can and ensure you recycle waste properly
  choose your packaging materials carefully, there are many sustainable options available
  consider quantity, weight and space when designing
packaging, efficiency leads not only to reduced material use but also to secondary factors such as fuel consumption
during transportation


Plastic bags


Approximately 5 trillion plastic bags are produced each year from about 60 million barrels of oil. Most of these are made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) which is naturally transparent so most bags are also dyed. Plastic bags are mostly handed out for free and are therefore used liberally. The average plastic bag is used for 20 minutes before being thrown away.


Even the small proportion that are re-used will eventually either end up in a landfill or as litter on land. As they are a recent invention, we do not yet know for how long they last – current estimates stand between 400 and 1000 years!



Not only can plastic bag litter be especially dangerous to children, who have been known to suffocate themselves when playing with them but ruminants such as camels, cattle, goats and sheep can die when they try to eat them and they enter the rumen.


Although most plastics eventually break down in strong sunlight (photodegrade), they only break down into smaller pieces of plastic, a particular problem in the oceans where the tiny pieces are mistaken for food by all manner of fish and birds. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 animals such as whales, dolphins, turtles and seals are killed each year as a result of waste in our oceans. When buried in soil the bags do not break down at all although chemicals from the dyes and the plastic do leach into the ecosystem.


  do not use a plastic bag, where possible carry your
own cloth bags
  when going shopping, if you must use plastic bags,
ensure they are recycled and always try to reuse
them rather than disposing of them


Glass bottles


Once an expensive luxury item, glass bottles are now commonplace. However, they still require significant resources and energy to manufacture. We do not yet know how long it takes for glass to breakdown, but glass originating from Ancient Assyria is still intact today, 3,000 years later!


When left in the open, they break when vehicles drive over them or are knocked by other people or animals. Broken glass is a special hazard to children paddling in rock pools in the wadis or playing on the beach.



The beauty of glass is that its structure does not deteriorate when reprocessed meaning that as much as 80% of the total mixture can be recovered. Not only does this lead to less resources being required (1 ton of recycled glass saves 1.2 tons of raw materials) but it also dramatically reduces the amount of energy used and greenhouse gas emissions released.


  ensure glass bottles are disposed of properly and carefully
  if possible, try to make sure they are returned to the shop, recycled or re-used
  use recycled glass bottles

Ring pulls


Metal ring pulls from soft drinks cans are hazardous to animals. They cut the soft skin between hooves or claws, sometimes leading to serious infection. They are also potentially hazardous to people, especially children playing barefoot in open spaces such as beaches and wadis.



  ensure you dispose of ring-pulls properly along with your can
  speak to your supplier about getting different types of cans where the pull stays attached to the can


Illegal Waste Dumping


All waste needs to be treated properly, even what might appear as simple rubble. Not only is there a risk of hazardous materials leaching into ecosystems and most importantly water systems, building rubble makes open spaces unsightly for those who walk there or have family picnics in the shade of trees.


  make sure all your large scale waste is being disposed of properly
  make a note of any illegal waste dumping activities and inform your local authority


Food Waste


Despite being biodegradable in the sun and edible to passing goats, food left in the open can cause health hazards and is especially unpleasant to visitors.



  try not to waste food
  compost your organic waste if you have a garden and use the compost as a fertilizer
  ensure that you always dispose of food waste properly and hygienically




In picnic areas and especially on beaches, litter spoils all of our enjoyment of our wonderful natural resources, can be hazardous to wildlife and also damages the image of our country for foreign visitors.