Memory Lane litter that will make you weep

Memory Lane litter that will make you weep: Are you filled with nostalgia by these retro brands? Sadly, it’s all rubbish found recently… as part of one ‘Womble’s’ crusade to show how trash never dies

Jason Alexander can still remember the thrill – and horror – when he plunged his litter picker into a hedgerow and emerged with a battered old can of Quatro.

The bilious green fizzy pop was the go-to drink back when he was a teenager in the 1980s.

And here it was, intact, nearly 40 years later, proof, if any were needed, of litter’s ability to blight and damage decades after the careless person who’d discarded it had long gone.

1980s Panda can with snap ring pull

Having sold his business, Gardenature, Jason decided to devote his spare time and energy to litter-picking = 1980s Smash potato mix made by Cadbury

 His first historical ‘treasure’ was a 1972 packet of Bovril-flavoured Smiths crisps found in a bush in Ipswich town centre – Pictured, 1972 Smiths Crisps Bovril flavour cost 3p

Mid 1980s Blackcurrant Corona sold in mini glass bottle – ‘There’s not much monetary value but there’s bags of sentimental value. Suddenly you’re a kid again with a Marathon bar in one hand and a can of fizzy Corona in the other’

Stored in boxes in the home he shares with Debbie, 50, a bookkeeper and their student son, Sam, 21, it amounts to some 300 exhibits dating back to 1920 – 1960s Original recipe Treets peanuts in chocolate cost 3d

‘The oldest litter we’ve found so far is a 1978 Coke can,’ he says. ‘Looking for vintage litter is a great spur. I was leading a group when this little girl found a Walkers crisp packet from 1984 – 1980s St Ivel’s creamy yoghurt

There was a romantic association with this can, however. ‘It was the first drink I ever bought my wife Debbie,’ says Jason, 50. ‘We were only 16 and treating Debbie to a can of Quatro seemed the height of sophistication.’

No wonder Jason was thrilled to discover the can, circa 1986, on a litter- picking foray near his Ipswich home last summer. Now it’s in what must be one of the quirkiest museums in Britain.

For the last five years Jason – a wildlife enthusiast and engineer who designed and made many of the hidden cameras used on the BBC’s Springwatch show – has been amassing vintage litter.

Stored in boxes in the home he shares with Debbie, 50, a bookkeeper and their student son, Sam, 21, it amounts to some 300 exhibits dating back to 1920. They are listed on his website: www.rubbishwalks.co.uk.

Jason is turning it into a mobile museum to tour the country displaying a roll call of great British brands – many no longer with us. He has found many on the beautiful Bawdsey beach near his home, as well as in streets, fields and parks around Ipswich.

It all started when he decided to photograph 100 sunrises and noticed the litter as he tramped around Suffolk beautyspots at dawn.

‘I started bringing it home to dispose of properly,’ he says. ‘Then one morning I saw a beautiful gannet lying dead on the shoreline, strangled by a pink birthday balloon. It was heartbreaking.

‘That’s when it really hit home. Litter wasn’t just a blight on the landscape. It was killing our wildlife.’

Having sold his business, Gardenature, Jason decided to devote his spare time and energy to litter-picking.

Soon he was out in all weathers, sometimes with Debbie and Sam. His first historical ‘treasure’ was a 1972 packet of Bovril-flavoured Smiths crisps found in a bush in Ipswich town centre

‘I stood there stunned,’ he says. ‘I was born in 1971. This crisp packet was almost as old as me. It was exciting and also horrifying. I showed it to Debbie and we were both agog and aghast. Here was living proof that litter doesn’t die. It will haunt us for generations.’

The ardent supporter of the Great British Spring Clean is currently clearing a Second World War pillbox stuffed to the roof with rubbish – 1983 Smiths Big D Peanuts sold in pubs 

1986 Quatro fizzy drink lasted to 1989 – The bilious green fizzy pop was the go-to drink back when he was a teenager in the 1980s

He also tours schools, hosts workshops and leads volunteers on Rubbish Walks to clean beaches, rivers, parks and streets – 1989 Lager with Hagar the Horrible

It’s a message that Jason is determined to hammer home. Since then he has redoubled his litter-picking efforts – notching up 30 hours a week. He also tours schools, hosts workshops and leads volunteers on Rubbish Walks to clean beaches, rivers, parks and streets.

The ardent supporter of the Great British Spring Clean is currently clearing a Second World War pillbox stuffed to the roof with rubbish. ‘The oldest litter we’ve found so far is a 1978 Coke can,’ he says. ‘Looking for vintage litter is a great spur. I was leading a group when this little girl found a Walkers crisp packet from 1984.

‘It was older than her parents. She was really excited to show them. But it was also a great lesson. Litter lasts a lifetime.

And then there’s the crisp packet from 1995: the year Debbie and Jason got married – Early 1960s This Murray Mints packet would have cost 1s 6d (5p)

Jason’s favourites – apart from his precious Quatro of course – include a can of Top Deck Lemonade Shandy from the 1980s – 1985 No alcohol Top Deck Lemonade Shandy

The finds are listed on his website: www.rubbishwalks.co.uk – 1970s Top-selling Golden Wonder crisps

‘People’s eyes light up when they find a piece of history. There’s not much monetary value but there’s bags of sentimental value. Suddenly you’re a kid again with a Marathon bar in one hand and a can of fizzy Corona in the other.’

Jason’s favourites – apart from his precious Quatro of course – include a can of Top Deck Lemonade Shandy from the 1980s.

‘It reminds me of my dad who died 20 years ago,’ says Jason. ‘We were in the darts team at our local pub. I was too young to drink so Dad always bought me a Top Deck Lemonade Shandy. I thought I was the bee’s knees.’

And then there’s the crisp packet from 1995: the year Debbie and Jason got married. ‘People may think litter is a load of old rubbish but there are some real jewels out there,’ he says. ‘You just have to open your eyes.’

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