A Rubbish Year?

The first community volunteer litter pick in Clayhanger took place on Saturday 19th March 2016 and there have been three more since. Madwblog reflects on year of rubbish.

I like to think that madwblog listens to the Clayhanger Community. That’s certainly the way I intend it to work. The first community litter pick was organised in Clayhanger as a result of a conversation on Clayhanger Community Facebook page and the quarterly litter picks in Clayhanger began.

That first volunteer litter pick back in March, open to all, was supported by Walsall Council and Clean and Green who provided litter pickers and bin bags. Three litter picks have followed – Summer, Autumn and most recently Christmas – and each has been whole-heartedly supported by Laura Terry from Area Partnership and Cllr Steve Wade. The litter picks have covered from the railway bridge on Clayhanger Lane, Northfields Way, into the Community Woodland, down Clayhanger Lane, the Co-op carpark and along Bridge Street to The Spot.

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Each event has been attended by between 5 and 10 volunteers who generously give their time for two hours one Saturday morning every 3 months. On average, that’s 56 hours of total litter collection over one year. And it doesn’t go unnoticed. Almost every time a litter pick takes place, someone pulls up in a car to say ‘Well done – what a great job you are doing!’ A great reason to feel warm and fuzzy and a little bit smug.

Amoung the volunteers are frequent litter pickers Gaz and Jackie. Jackie explains why she joins in ‘There’s a great sense of community spirit, pride in our village. Time is of an essence to us all but what an easy way to volunteer and feel good!’ And Gaz adds ‘It only took me an hour to litter pick two bags of rubbish, if we had more people giving an hour of their time, litter wouldn’t be a problem in Clayhanger.’ Jackie agrees ‘Even for half an hour, we would love more people to join in.’

And it’s easy! No prior experience or special skill needed to pick litter (although I do admit to wrangling with a picker tangled in a hedge whilst trying to extract an elusive drinks can – but I expect that’s just me).

The problem is, the litter doesn’t stay away. Within no time at all its back and sometimes it seems worse than ever, especially in the winter when its gets blown around and the bare hedges don’t hide it. I know there are several folk in Clayhanger who frequently go out with a bin bag and collect litter whilst walking the dog and many of you will know long-time Clayhanger resident, Malcolm, who not only diligently collects litter, but also empties over-following bins on the common and even clears up dog mess. An unsung community hero.

Some of the effects of litter are obvious – it looks terrible and we know that it can harm wildlife if animals ingest plastics in particular or get stuck in carrier bags or other packaging – but there are other effects which may not seem obvious at first. The charity Keep Britain Tidy has been campaigning with government and commerce for many years to seek ways to reduce packaging and subsequently litter. An extensive report: When it comes to litter, which side of the fence are you on? published on their website in 2013 suggests that:

‘Litter can be harmful to communities. Research shows that people would rather not spend time in places that are littered and not cared for and that can result in damage to community spirit, wellbeing and health whilst increasing fear of crime…

If an area is affected by litter and grafiti, it encourages further anti-social behaviour. This was proven by recent research in
the Netherlands, which showed an increase in trespassing, dropping litter and even stealing money, if the environment was poorly managed and neglected. It has also been found that litter correlated with the incidence of crime at bus stops in downtown Los Angeles and adjoining neighbourhoods. In England, around 8 in 10 land managers think that fighting minor crimes like litter and grafiti would help to reduce larger crimes and improve safety in their area.’

The report is challenging, suggesting that:

‘Litter is a divisive issue – you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’

Tough and uncomfortable words. The report is well evidenced with research and well written with info-graphics, making it an easy to digest, interesting read. The final page ends with the tag line ‘love where you live and get involved’ urging us all to take responsibility for the consumption and disposal of packaging.

Having established a habit for scheduling litter picks in Clayhanger, they will continue at least quarterly through 2017. The first of which will take place on Saturday 21st January 2017. The aim of this litter pick is to concentrate on the hedgerow along Bridge Street from The Spot to Clayhanger Bridge and then underneath Clayhanger Bridge.

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Resolve this New Year to give some love to Clayhanger Village by joining a litter pick. It’s free, (you don’t have to sign up with an email address, remember a password or even give your name) it makes you feel good and it has a positive impact on the Village and the nature we share it with. Just turn up and get picking.

Clayhanger New Year litter pick. Saturday January 21st 2017. 8.30 – 10.30. Meet at The Spot on Bridge Street, Clayhanger.