Join the war on litter

jeff-king-115540-unsplashSYMBOL OF HOPE? [PICTURE: Jeff King, Unsplash]

WOULD you like to make the world a cleaner and happier place to live in?

Our beautiful Chilterns countryside is being buried in litter and we want to do something about it.

It’s not impossible to turn back the tide. We know it’s not achievable overnight and will take patience, persistence and determination. But rather than despairing about the scale of the challenge, let’s look at practical ways of getting to grips with it – one small step at a time.

We know that as many as four out of five of us get angry and frustrated when we see litter so isn’t it time that the voices of that majority are heard? We believe that there’s plenty we can achieve locally, working with local councils and other concerned groups, to get the message across and start making a difference.

Some of the pictures on this page provide a depressing reminder of man’s impact on the natural environment around the world. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

hermes-rivera-nicaragua-unsplashNICARAGUA [PICTURE: Hermes Rivera, Unsplash]

And there’s no point wringing our hands and bemoaning the state of the planet when there’s so much we can do to help make things better.

Of course, the naysayers will claim it’s a hopeless battle. What’s the point of cutting down on plastic in your own life when hundreds of thousands of tons of rubbish are being dumped every day?

But you have to start somewhere. Sir David Attenborough’s stark message about plastic pollution in his Blue Planet II TV series hit home with viewers because it showed the extraordinary beauty of the natural environment alongside the dangers posed by our throwaway society.

brunel-johnson-london-unsplashLONDON [PICTURE: Brunel Johnson, Unsplash]

And just as his programmes have helped to focus worldwide attention on how to cut down on waste and combat the terrrible destruction of our oceans, there’s plenty we can do locally to help that crusade.

Of course, there’s much more that governments can do through legislation – and yes, campaigners are right to turn the spotlight on the global companies who produce so much of the plastic that ends up on our beaches and roadsides.

But when the problem on our own doorstep is so obvious, surely that must be the logical place to start if we are going to make a difference?

dustan-woodhouse-dominican republic-unsplashDOMINICAN REPUBLIC [PICTURE: Dustan Woodhouse, Unsplash]

Campaign groups like Clean Up Britain are leading the fight to encourage companies to limit the amount of packaging they use – and we can all do our bit to help by changing the way we shop and the way we recycle.

On Twitter, Quentin Brodie Cooper of Zilch UK has spent the past five years building up a network of more than 12,000 followers working together to eliminate littering.

“It’s a beautiful country. What’s being done to change this behaviour? It’s far less of a problem on the continent and in Japan,” says the IT project manager from Surrey.

His long-term campaign has tried to engage people in all aspects of the issue, from education to enforcement, spreading the word about good practice and pulling no punches when it comes to highlighting failures of local and central government policy.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste has plenty of practical ideas for ways of ditching plastic and reducing our waste.

Up in the Midlands, a group of like-minded local people called The Pickup Artists  launched their own  initiative to help clear up their towns – with council backing. Around the country are dozens of similar groups, which can found on the Facebook group site for UK Litterpicking Groups.

And individual campaigners like Peter Silverman at Clean Highways are tirelessly chipping away at councils, government agencies and others to face up to their legal responsibilities and do their bit to help transform the local landscape.

andrei-ciobanu-Cap Ferret, Lège-Cap-Ferret, France-unsplashCAP FERRET, FRANCE [PICTURE: Andrei Ciobanu, Unsplash]

There’s plenty we can all quietly do as individuals to reduce our ecological footprint and cut back on our consumption of the earth’s natural resources. But there are plenty of websites dedicated to those issues. What are we at The Beyonder actually proposing?

We live in a beautiful part of the country and we believe the starting point for our campaign must be to lead by example and start working with councils across the area to make a real difference to the local environment.

We believe that communities working together can achieve great things – and that includes helping to ensure a  new “social norm” of cleanliness is established, which can be a focus for local pride and community identity.

We know a clean environment helps to reduce littering and increase people’s motivation not to litter – and of course there are many local people and agencies already working tirelessly to do just that, from refuse collectors and street cleaners to countryside rangers and staff at the household recycling centres.

On National Trust land and in country parks, volunteers are also stepping in to help – as are those volunteering for The Chiltern Society or local Wildlife Trusts, or individual dog walkers, ramblers and nature lovers simply picking up rubbish and bagging it when they come across it.

We hope we can help to promote and co-ordinate existing clean-up efforts like these.  And in the longer term, involving local schools can also help ensure a new generation of children grow up appreciating the wonder of nature and the importance of protecting their local environment, making them less likely to litter when they grow up to be teenagers and more likely to protest when friends or family members throw something away carelessly. 

Our first task is to make contact with all the local councils and other agencies we have mentioned, to fully assess the scale of the problem, find out just what is already being done and find out how we can contribute in the most effective way possible.

Watch this space and our Volunteer link as we step up our own campaign to start making an impact on the ground locally – one small step at a time.