BLOG: 5 things that weigh 3 tonnes (like daily litter on Port Meadow)

Published: Tuesday, 17th August 2021

We have a problem with litter. But how big is it?

Since last spring, the amount of rubbish left strewn across the city’s parks and greenspaces in warmer weather has increased horribly.

On Port Meadow alone, ODS has frequently been clearing three tonnes of waste each day from the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Animals have been killed and injured by litter and a small careless minority have spoiled the enjoyment of other people who, particularly during lockdown, have relied upon our parks and greenspaces spaces for their health and wellbeing.

What does three tonnes look like?

Three tonnes is a lot. Every single item of discarded rubbish helps contribute to a hazardous mass of unhealthy, harmful and dangerous litter that costs everyone living in Oxford a significant amount to remove and dispose of.

If you were told that three tonnes weighs about 400,000 times more than a human eye, would that get it into perspective?

If you’re the type of person who takes their eye off the ball enough to drop litter, probably not.

Here are some more obvious comparisons to focus on to help you get the bigger picture.

A blue whale’s tongue

Blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth. These magnificent marine mammals rule the oceans at up to 100 feet long and upwards of 200 tonnes. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant. Their hearts, as much as a large car. Yes they’re beautiful. But you wouldn’t want to have to try and squeeze their tongues into a collection vehicle on a sunny morning, would you?

7992 cans of beer

That’s just the empties. And aluminium doesn’t weigh that much. Assuming each can contains 440ml of liquid when full, that’s just over 6,188 pints of beer that’s been drunk the night before! Okay. So it’s not just beer cans. Animals are killed and injured by glass and plastic too. But it’s a sobering thought.

A white rhinoceros

The white rhino, along with the roughly equal-sized Greater one-horned rhino, is the world's largest species of land mammal after the elephant. There are two types – northern and southern. An endangered species, there are approximately just 18,000 white rhinos left. Mother and daughter, Najin and Fatu are the only two remaining northern white rhinos. If this makes you sad, remember that  animals in Oxford are killed and hurt by litter. Bag it, bit it. Or take it home.


Discovered in Alberta in 2001, Albertaceratops was a 3.5 tonne herbivore. It was 19 feet (5.8 metres) tall. Known from a single, well-preserved skull from Alberta and material from a bone bed in Montana, including almost the entire skeleton. It had long brow horns, unlike other members of the centrosaurine subfamily. While these horns may have made perfectly good litter-pickers, dinosaurs have been extinct for about 65 million years. Thank goodness for the army of volunteers who regularly and tirelessly clean up after litter-bugs in Oxford!

An orca

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world's most powerful predators. They're immediately recognisable by their distinctive black-and-white colouring. Smart and social, orcas make a wide variety of communicative sounds, and each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognise even at a distance. If orcas were land dwellers in Oxford, they’d communicate a very strong anti-littering message. And they’d scare everyone sufficiently to listen!

This is just Port Meadow. The scale of the problem is much greater across the entire city. Please don’t drop litter. Every item taken home and disposed of properly helps to relieve the burden on everyone who is proud to live in our wonderful city.

If you’d like to know more about volunteer litter-picking, visit OxClean.