Two friends to hike across Corsica picking up cigarette butts

The adventurers aim to walk 450 kilometres removing litter, visiting schools, meeting people - and probably washing up a few dishes as they will be without a budget

The French and English pair are used to picking up litter and are now setting their eyes on cigarette butts in Corsica
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An Englishman and a Frenchman plan to set off to walk across Corsica on March 1 with the aim of picking up as many cigarette butts as they can on the way - and meeting people.

Ed Platt, a business English coach, and photojournalist Frédéric Munsch - nicknamed l’Escargot Anglais (English Snail) et le Sanglier Français (Boar Marseillais) - will hike along the island’s coast with no budget and no plan of where to eat or sleep. They will be relying on the kindness of people they meet for food and shelter.

They have named the adventure ‘Corsica or Die’ and aim to raise awareness against littering and encourage people to pick up a piece of rubbish every day.

They will be presenting their message at Corsican schools and hope to make people uncomfortable about their habits to try and initiate change in their everyday lives.

Mischief and adventure are also on the agenda with Mr Platt likening the six-week adventure to “Mr Bean, Rémi Gaillard or The Hangover but picking up trash”.

The plan

The Corsica or Die itinerary Pic: Frédéric Munsch

“We will probably be washing some dishes and cars to get a free lunch. We also want to show that you can have an engaged holiday without spending money,” he told The Connexion.

The pair previously walked from Marseille to Paris and Dover to Dundee in 2020 and 2022 respectively, travelling 800 kilometres in both walks.

On those trips, they received meals and accommodation for free from people they met and picked up almost 10,000 face masks, feats that they are hoping to repeat in Corsica - but with cigarette butts.

One cigarette butt can pollute 500 litres of water. Mr Platt, a former smoker, says he probably threw 10,000 cigarette butts on the ground in his life.

“I do regret that but I do not beat myself up about it. It is not an anti-tobacco campaign. Smoker’s lungs, smoker’s hearts, smoker’s health is not my problem,” he said.

They will be carrying 5 litre bottles to put the butts in, which can in theory fit 4,000 cigarettes and will hopefully make a striking image at the end of journey.

The duo will be targeting restaurants, terraces and bars where people are liable to throw butts on the floor - and where they are more likely to be treated to food and drink as Mr Munsch points out.

They will also visit schools. On previous trips, parents told them that they no longer throw out their cigarette butts because of what their children told them.

Frédéric Munsch and Ed Platt after presenting their mission in front of school children
The pair visit schools to persuade children to pick up one piece of rubbish a day Pic: Frédéric Munsch

Mr Platt said that while they are out there collecting rubbish, he would like to nominate everyone at home to pick up one piece a day, including anyone reading this article.

He summed up the adventure by saying: “We are going to be getting into all sorts of mischief. It is going to be spontaneous, sporadic, outrageous and if we get into trouble, we get into trouble. It is all for a good cause anyway: raising the alarm about litter and pollution.”

‘1 déchet par jour’

Mr Platt’s story started on August 18, 2015, on a holiday back to his hometown of Leeds.

Though not an écolo at heart, he decided to pick up a discarded can of Diet Coke and post it to social media, with a caption saying that his new habit was to pick up one piece of rubbish a day.

“It did not exactly go viral but people started sending me photos of them with a piece of rubbish. I told them that they should post them to social media, not send them to me.

“Then a friend in Marseille [where he has lived since 2011] said that if you could get people to pick up one piece of rubbish a day in Marseille, ‘you would be my god.’ It grew from there.”

He founded the association 1 déchet par jour and set up a website and Facebook page that now has over 30,000 followers and an Instagram page with 17,700 followers.

While similar associations exist, Mr Platt believes that they often mostly impact people who already know that littering is wrong. He tries instead to target people who are not so aware of the impact of their actions.

He also travelled over 8,000 kilometres hitchhiking and picking up litter across France in 2017, detailed in his book L’anglais qui voulait nettoyer la France.

He is clear that everyone pollutes. He brought up the ‘four Cs’, saying that they are true for everyone: Consommateur, Coupable, Concerné et Capable. In English, this means that we are all consumers, all guilty of plastic pollution, all affected by it and all able to make a difference.

“It is about recognising that we are all part of a problem and that we can be part of the solution as well, by changing our consumer habits,” he said.

For him, it is about changing attitudes: “I tell people who throw rubbish out of their car, ‘tomorrow, throw a little less’. Then people ask if I mean none at all, and I say ‘yeah, but that is for you to decide isn’t it mate?’ It is about empowering people to make a change themselves.”

His ‘snail’ nickname has nothing to do with being slow. He lives forward and never turns back, just like a snail, and his hitchhiking trip in 2017 took the shape of a snail’s shell.

Mr Platt has also dressed up as Borat with a mankini and taken a shower in the streets of Marseille to raise awareness, as well as playing in the Marseille soap opera Plus Belle La Vie.

‘Push to action’

Photos from their previous trips Pic: Frédéric Munsch

Mr Munsch is a warzone photojournalist who was recently in Israel and Palestine, and has been among the action in Ukraine and Syria.

His nickname is linked to the “nosy” nature of boars, “who stick their snout anywhere and everywhere” as well as the fact that they maronne (grumble) as he puts it, which he also loves to do.

He highlighted the fact that the pair will not just be in Corsica to pick up rubbish but also to spread their message and enjoy a different kind of holiday.

He points out that they need to make an impression on the Corsicans they come across through antics and fun.

“If we just pick up rubbish and put it in bin bags, then we will be as visible as street furniture - so, totally invisible,” he said. “We know that there will be cigarette butts left behind.”

That is why the duo wants to make people laugh, make them uncomfortable and make some noise, as well as creating some media attention. They want to push people to action, such as picking up one piece of rubbish a day, rather than creating a dialogue.

“We want to show that action is possible and that adventure begins outside your front door,” he stated.

He has great memories of previous trips, particularly when they were hosted in expensive accommodation or at Michelin starred restaurants for free and given authentic Scottish kilts on their way to Dundee, that he thinks were worth about €300.

The interactions with people they meet are crucial and both friends underlined the fact that they want to have a “human” oriented holiday.

You can follow the Corsica journey on Instagram and check out the 1 déchet par jourwebsite and Facebook page.

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