CleanupUK’s Dirty Week-end

I’ve just come back from Cornwall where we have been holding CleanupUK’s Dirty Week-end, a conference on Thursday and Friday involving some of our friends and supporters. The aim of the Dirty Week-end was to provide an update on the national litter situation, to look at how volunteers can help to change litterers’ behaviour and to ask everyone’s views on CleanupUK’s future plans.

It was a fascinating exchange of ideas. We heard from speakers from Defra (the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the University of Southampton, the Social Market Foundation (an independent think tank), Keep Britain Tidy, CPRE (the Campaign to Protect Rural England) and Cornwall Council. All of them had important things to say about how we can tackle the problem if litter and why it is so vital that we do so.

One of the highlights was a presentation by Roger from the North Hill Community Litter Project, based at North Hill near Launceston in Cornwall. Have a look at their website at www.litterfree.co.uk.

Roger explained that the North Hill group focus on the 3 Ps : picking, prevention and partners. What I found so admirable about this approach is that North Hill aren’t content with just picking up litter – they have given serious thought to how they can make a real difference to the behaviour of people who drop litter.

Their method is to make sure that everyone knows when an area has been litter-picked by the volunteers by putting up signs to tell them this; in addition, they make sure through their parish newsletter and by word of mouth that all the community knows what the group is doing and that as many people as possible are involved; crucially, they forge partnerships with key elements of their community and ask them to spread the message too (have a look at the list of partners on their website); and, finally, they communicate their message to local schools so that the young are aware of and understand the problems that litter causes.

The North Hill group, and indeed all those who joined us for our conference in Cornwall, reminded me very much of one of the first blogs that I wrote : “In praise of volunteers” in April 2008. I came away from our Dirty Week-end with the strong reassurance that volunteers and other people who devote their energies to solving our country’s litter problem (whether they are based in government departments, universities, local authorities, think tanks or voluntary organisations) are as passionate as ever in their determination to make a difference.

This is indeed good news. It means that litterers may run but they can’t hide. The hope is as strong as ever for the result that so many of us, including the North Hill group, strive for – to make our country litter-free.

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