Buried treasure



There is something in our home-made compost that should not be there. I put vegetable remains, cardboard boxes and tea-bags in. But, whenever my husband turns the compost, there is always a little pile of plastic which of course hasn’t rotted. Where does that come from? There must be plastic hidden in the packaging somewhere.

 I have been to Uriconium this week. (I am looking for things to do which feel safe for me as a shielded person.) It is a long time since I have seen the walls of the old baths towering against the Welsh hills. The items that the Romans dropped or threw away, like pottery, glass and metal objects, are fascinating to me.

Their pieces of litter are now called artefacts and I, for one, am glad that they left them behind. I am fascinated to find that the Roman women used eyeliner tools and wore such beautiful jewellery, just like today.

Even in our garden and fields we have found old things that have been discarded, which are interesting. A Shipman paste jar– do you remember that?  Victorian clay pipes, old ale bottles and rusty farming tools have surfaced. I think of the people who used to live here working the land, smoking their pipes, eating their sandwiches and having a glass of refreshment.

But, when I was a child, living on my parents farm we had a problem with what people threw away. It was cellophane from sweet wrappers, ‘silver’ paper from cigarette boxes and wire ties from crisp packets, that caused a problem in those days. One of our cows had to be operated on as her stomach was blocked from debris she had eaten. She would have died had the vet not acted so quickly and opened the stomach to clear the rubbish out. 

We have always thrown things away, and today waste seems to be increasing. We are clearing things out – sorting our lives and doing jobs around the house and garden that we have meaning to do for ages. I am taking stock – the pandemic seems to have done that. I have a lot to throw away. But, now there is something more. I am ordering on-line and most things are delivered in a plastic bag or have a plastic covering. I have lots of plastic – which, as our compost shows, is not biodegradable. What to do with our modern litter when it has become too much of a good thing?

People who followed the Romans had an answer. At Wroxeter church I admired the columnar gateposts, near the entrance. After the Romans had left, the builders of the new church took materials from the fallen city. There were lots of stones going spare so they were re-cycled.

Now, we are exhorted to re-cycle again, just like our ancestors did. As Wilfred Owen wrote in his ode to Uriconium ‘Under the sun is nothing wholly new’ – even pandemics.

Why is there often plastic in our compost heap?


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