A rubbish problem

17/06/21 – Community

During the first two weeks of June, the charity Keep Britain Tidy ran its annual Great British Spring Clean campaign, which aims to raise awareness of and get people involved in its mission to cut litter, end waste, recycle more, and clean up our public outdoor spaces.

In the UK, we drop more than two million pieces of litter every day. As well as being unsightly and costly to clean up (over £1 billion of taxpayers’ money is spent each year on street cleaning services), litter can be extremely damaging to the environment.

When dumped in parks or in the countryside, rubbish poses a significant hazard to wild animals who may ingest it or become entangled or entrapped. A massive amount of litter also ends up being washed into our rivers and waterways and out to sea, where it again can cause serious harm to marine life and sea birds and release polluting chemicals into the ecosystem.

It’s clear that litter is an enormous problem, but aside from ensuring that you don’t add to it by always disposing of your rubbish responsibly, what can you do to help?


Be a #LitterHero!

Don’t worry if you missed out on joining in with the GB Spring Clean event this month. Promoting awareness of the issue, reporting buildups of rubbish to the relevant authorities, and volunteering to pick up litter in your local area are activities that you can get involved with year round and that all make a huge difference, as we found out from our very own Medigold Health colleague, Occupational Health Nurse Laura Way.

Based in Plymouth, Laura started litter-picking after noticing how much rubbish was being left in her neighbourhood park and soon began participating in organised picks run by a local group.

We caught up with her to find out more about her experience and pick up (!) her top tips for anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps.


How did you first start litter-picking?

I started litter-picking while out on my daily dog walks – if I saw any rubbish that people had left, I would pick it up and put it in the bin. Later, I joined a local group called Clean Our Patch after seeing an advert for one of their organised group picks. There were 50 volunteers at the first pick I attended, and we collected 120 bags of rubbish!

What work does the group do?

The group covers the whole of Plymouth and recruits ambassadors in each area of the city to spread the word and grow their team of volunteers. The ambassadors lead our weekly picks, and we always log how much litter we collect, so that we can keep track of trouble spots where rubbish tends to accumulate and report these to the council. Because of our work, they have been able to lobby a number of local fast-food outlets to take more action to reduce the amount of litter their customers are generating in the area. We also report full rubbish bins and incidents of fly tipping and contact companies about rubbish buildup on their sites.

What’s the best thing about joining an organised group?

Being in a group means you don’t have to worry about disposing of the rubbish you pick, as there are coordinators on hand who liaise with the council and arrange a location for its collection. Plus, all the equipment is free – we get issued with high visibility jackets, bags, hoops to hold the bags open (essential when it’s windy!), and litter-pickers. All we have to provide are our gloves.

Our coordinators also keep us regularly updated on how much litter we have collected. Since January, the team in my area (which has a population of around 30,000 people) has already picked 1748 bags of rubbish, including 2340 PPE items. It gives you a great sense of achievement knowing how much litter you’ve helped to remove from the environment. Picking in a group is also a great way to meet new people, and we often get given free cups of tea from appreciative local businesses!

Why do you enjoy litter-picking?

Particularly over the last year, people have come to recognise how important our outdoor spaces are for our wellbeing. We should all be able to enjoy them, and we all have a responsibility to look after them. I’m proud to do my bit to improve the environment on my doorstep and love that I’m helping to make a difference in my community.

What are your top tips for anyone wanting to get involved?

  • Join a group – search for litter-picking groups in your area – your local council website is a good place to start.
  • Remember safety first – always wear gloves and high visibility clothing (and use a litter-picker if possible); avoid picking litter near busy roads; and don’t try to lift or move heavy items that have been fly-tipped, report it to the council instead. If you’re part of a group, they will usually have a Health and Safety checklist that you’ll need to agree to.
  • Know who to report to – keep a list of numbers handy e.g. The Environment Agency (to report pollution of local watercourses) and your local council waste services. If you see fly tipping on railway land or on the highways, you can report this to Network Rail and the Highways Agency.
  • Have fun – and tell people about what you’re doing!

Make the switch to reusable face masks

Since the onset of the pandemic, ‘COVID litter’ has become a major problem – in September 2020, items of discarded PPE were found on nearly a third of all beaches surveyed in the UK by beach-cleaning volunteers, with single-use masks the main offender.

Disposable masks make up 90% of all masks worn by the public and 129 billion of them are being thrown away every month. Wildlife can mistake the masks for food or become entangled in the elastic, and because they are made from non-biodegradable plastic microfibres, when they break down, they release micro and nano plastic particles, which work their way into our ecosystems.

By choosing to use reusable masks instead, we can ensure that the solution to today’s health crisis isn’t the cause of tomorrow’s environmental disaster.

That’s why we’re delighted to now be able to provide our customers with high-quality, reusable, biodegradable face masks through our partnership with The Black Mask Company, which was founded by two-weight World Boxing Champion David Haye and supports a number of vital charities, including NHS Charities Together.

Our planet-friendly masks are made from comfortable, washable cotton and can be fully customised with your company logo to ensure that your teams continue to look smart, professional, and on-brand while wearing them. If you’d like to learn more about the masks and how you can benefit from our exclusive discount, simply contact medigold@theblackmaskcompany.com and a customer service rep will be in touch.

To learn more about Keep Britain Tidy’s important work, check out their website: https://www.keepbritaintidy.org

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