Jason Alexander can still remember the thrill – and horror – when he threw his trash picker into a hedge and emerged with a battered old can of Quatro.
The bile green fizzy pop was the go-to drink when he was a teenager in the 1980s.
And here it was, intact, nearly 40 years later, proof, if need be, of litter’s ability to destroy and damage decades after the careless person who threw it away was long gone.
1980s Panda can with retaining ring pull
After selling his company Gardenature, Jason decided to devote his free time and energy to collecting litter = 1980s Smash potato mix made by Cadbury
His first historic ‘treasure’ was a 1972 packet of Bovril flavored Smiths chips found in a bush in Ipswich town center – Pictured, 1972 Smiths Bovril flavored chips cost 3 pence
Mid 80’s Blackcurrant Corona sold in mini glass bottle – ‘There isn’t much monetary value, but there are bags of sentimental value. Suddenly you’re a kid again with a Marathon bar in one hand and a can of carbonated Corona in the other’
Stored in boxes in the house he shares with Debbie, 50, a bookkeeper and their student son, Sam, 21, it amounts to some 300 exhibits from the 1920s – 1960s Original recipe Treets peanuts in chocolate cost 3d
“The oldest litter we’ve found so far is a Coke can from 1978,” he says. ‘Looking for vintage litter is a great incentive. I was leading a group when this little girl found a 1984 crispy pack of Walkers – St Ivel’s 80s Creamy Yogurt
However, there was a romantic association with this can. “It was the first drink I ever bought for my wife Debbie,” says Jason, 50. “We were only 16 and treating Debbie to a can of Quatro seemed like the height of sophistication.”
No wonder Jason was overjoyed to discover the can, circa 1986, during a litter search near his home in Ipswich last summer. Now it’s in what must be one of the quirkiest museums in Britain.
For the past five years, Jason — a wildlife enthusiast and engineer who designed and made many of the hidden cameras used in the BBC’s Springwatch show — has been collecting vintage litter.
Stored in boxes in the house he shares with Debbie, 50, a bookkeeper, and their college son, Sam, 21, it amounts to about 300 exhibits dating back to 1920. They are listed on his website: www.rubbishwalks. co.uk.
Jason turns it into a mobile museum to travel the country with a roll call from major British brands – many no longer with us. He has found many on the beautiful Bawdsey Beach near his home, as well as in the streets, fields and parks around Ipswich.
It all started when he decided to shoot 100 sunrises and noticed the litter as he walked through Suffolk’s beauty spots at dawn.
“I started taking it home to dispose of it 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 me. Litter was not only a stain on the landscape. It was killing our nature.’
After selling his company Gardenature, Jason decided to devote his free time and energy to cleaning up litter.
Soon he was out in all kinds of weather, sometimes with Debbie and Sam. His first historic ‘treasure’ was a 1972 packet of Bovril-flavored Smiths chips found in a bush in Ipswich town center
“I stood there stunned,” he says. ‘I was born in 1971. This crispy package was almost my age. It was exciting and also scary. I showed it to Debbie and we were both shocked and stunned. Here was living proof that litter doesn’t die. It will haunt us for generations.”
Avid supporter of the Great British Spring Clean is currently clearing out a WWII bunker filled to the roof with rubbish – 1983 Smiths Big D Peanuts sold in pubs
1986 Quatro fizzy drink lasted until 1989 – The bile green fizzy pop was the go-to drink when he was a teenager in the 80s
He also tours schools, conducts 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 doubled his efforts to clean up litter: 30 hours a week. He also tours schools, conducts workshops and leads volunteers on garbage walks to clean beaches, rivers, parks and streets.
The ardent supporter of the Great British Spring Clean is currently clearing out a WWII bunker that is littered to the roof. “The oldest litter we’ve found so far is a Coke can from 1978,” he says. ‘Looking for vintage litter is a great incentive. I was leading a group when this little girl found a 1984 Walkers chip package.
“It was older than her parents. She was very excited to show them. But it was also a great lesson. Litter lasts a lifetime.
And then there’s the chip pack from 1995: the year Debbie and Jason got married – Early 60’s. This Murray Mints pack would have cost 1s 6d (5p).
Jason’s favorites – 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 Best Selling Golden Wonder Chips
‘People’s eyes light up when they find a piece of history. There is not much monetary value, but there are pockets of sentimental value. Suddenly you’re a kid again with a Marathon bar in one hand and a can of carbonated Corona in the other.’
Jason’s favorites – aside from his precious Quatro, of course – include a can of Top Deck Lemonade Shandy from the 80s.
“It reminds me of my father who died 20 years ago,” Jason says. “We were on the darts team at our local pub. I was too young to drink so my dad always bought a Top Deck Lemonade Shandy. I thought I was the bee’s knees.’
And then there’s the chip package from 1995, the year Debbie and Jason got married. “People may think that litter is a bunch of old junk, but there are real gems out there,” he says. “All you have to do is open your eyes.”