Danny lambasts litter apathy

THE Kent businessman who invented a pioneering new app to tackle the country’s litter crisis admits it’s been a long, uphill struggle to get people to take his idea seriously.

Launched in a blaze of publicity back in 2015, the idea was a simple one, as Danny Lucas explains: “I decided to tackle the UK litter crisis in a way that had never been done before.

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“As a child of the 70s I remembered public information films at school and Keep Britain Tidy logos on every crisp packet and sweet wrapper.

“Whilst that worked back then, it was clear that it had no effect today and I knew a new approach was needed.”

His solution was a simple, free app for smartphone users that allows individuals to tip off their local council with information about litter, dog fouling and fly-tipping. It was accompanied by a two-minute animated education film that could be shown to the kids at school assembly.

By August 2016 Danny was picking up an environmental champions award from the Mayor of Tonbridge in recognition of the contribution LitterGram had had on improving conditions in the borough.

But although he tries to remain positive, two years on he is the first to admit that the scheme hasn’t grown the way he had hoped when he first wrote about the idea of making “hating litter cool” and getting all of the UK’s 433 local councils involved.

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“Councils are just not interested,” he says. “Behind closed doors they see us as a pain in the arse.”

Having invested £300,000 of his own money in the project, it’s clear that the lukewarm response has been the source of considerable anger and frustration. As the boss of a multi-million pound business in the construction industry, employing hundreds of staff, this is a man who’s clearly accustomed to getting things done.

The company he owns is the same family-run business he joined as a teenager of 15, and for most of his life he has lived in Kent– the so-called ‘Garden of England’.

“I am proud to be British however when I look around Britain I can’t see what’s great about it any more. Littering has increased by 500% since the 1960s and 48% of the population admit to dropping litter.

“We now spend £1bn per year tackling the problem which clearly does nothing as we are now officially the third most littered nation globally behind countries in the developing world.”

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“This is a shocking statistic and purely down to a lack of education and awareness. This has in turn created a culture and attitude across the UK of not caring and has affected the very authorities whose duty it is to maintain standards and set examples. Effectively they now broadcast a message that says “we don’t care” and this fuels the problem.”

Danny was disappointed to find that relatively few head teachers were keen to take up the baton, some insisting that it was parents’ job to teach children about such matters.

Coupled with poor enforcement in many areas of the country, the apathy means that many people become “litter blind”, he believes – because the country is being so trashed and neglected that this is becoming the norm.

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Not all council clear-up teams are as efficient as they could be, he believes. That is another waste of money and a cause for complacency, particularly if councils really don’t want to be told about the scale of the problem.

“Councils have to set standards but no one really cares,” he says. “I saw it as a great way to get the kids on board and I thought councils would embrace it.”

The LitterGram Live message of “Snap It. Share It. Sort It” was envisaged as a dynamic and fast-changing service which would include details of the most littered brands, the most active users and the most responsive councils, with enthusiastic litter spotters able to keep up with latest developments on Twitter @LitterGram.

But it hasn’t quite gone according to plan – even though there are dozens of litter-picking groups up and down the country doing their bit to help, and millions of nature and animal lovers doing their bit to highlight the scale of the crisis.

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There’s been plenty of publicity in the press and on TV and radio, but that has not translated into LitterGram becoming the “fifth emergency service” as Danny might have wished.

Perhaps even more radical solutions are needed? “Take it off the councils. You could halve the costs and keep Britain spotless,” says Danny. And he’s not exactly joking. But nor is he despondent that the battle has been lost.

“I get phoned up all the time about it, so we are obviously getting the attention of a lot of people,” he says. “One way or another we will get there. The problem is now an epidemic that has a grip on the nation like cancer. If nothing is done, the problem will worsen and our children and their children will be swimming in filth.”

It’s an apocalyptic warning, but even a cursory glance along the average English roadside is enough to demonstrate that this is not empty rhetoric. The problem is there for all to see – and while LitterGram may not have become the quick-fix solution Danny Lucas might have wished for, you get the impression this is one campaigner who isn’t giving up the fight just yet.

Volunteers make a clean sweep

EMMAKEEPING IT CLEAN: volunteers hit the streets in Hereford [PICTURE: Andrew Wood]

COMMUNITY websites CAN make a real difference when it comes to getting local people to change their littering habits, it seems.

It’s almost a year since Emma Jones and Andrew Wood set up their online community in Hereford dedicated to clearing up local areas, following a community litter pick the friends took part in last Easter organised by Keep Britain Tidy.

That initiative tied in with a local Herefordshire Council campaign called Stop the Drop launched in January 2016 – and a year on, the community clean-up website now boasts more than 1400 members and has its own website too.

“There’s a new national feeling that we have become recycling conscious and getting people to join was relatively easy,” says Andrew, who used local buying and selling websites to put out an appeal for volunteers to get involved.

The council stepped in with litter pickers, high-visibility vests and rubbish bags. From the start, the aim was to encourage individuals to clean up local streets around their homes on a very small scale – and that seems to be having an impact, he believes.

“You need enforcement officers to be fining people to change habits,” he said. “But it has been working very, very well.” Sponsorship from local companies has helped to make the group self-sufficient and the group liaises with those companies on the ground too.

“We will work with Asda to do the area surrounding the car park, for example,” he says. “And we will name and shame too. Companies don’t like the bad publicity if they are not clearing up their own property.”

As well as retrieving supermarket trolleys from the river and notifying the council of fly-tipping incidents, the group has launched a new project to tidy up the flower beds at the main station.

It has also forged links with other groups performing similar roles around the country – from Michelle Medler and her team in Kidderminster to the Dorset Devils in Bournemouth.

The group has increasingly developed into a social group too, as well as entering a float in the Hereford River Carnival, sprucing up the town for Hereford in Bloom and prompting a major county council campaign against dog fouling.

“We are making a difference,” insists Andrew. “It takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. But things are changing for the better.”

ASDASUPERMARKET SWEEP: salvaging trolleys from the river

Waging war on plastic

scott-warman-525481-unsplashGOING GREEN: vegetables without plastic wrapping [PICTURE: Scott Warman, Unsplash]

IT WAS a health scare that started Kathryn Kellogg first thinking about what she was putting in and on her body.

“I had never considered it before; I just assumed everything I was consuming was safe,” she says. “There’s very little regulation and testing for the products we buy. Cleaning companies don’t even have to release the ingredients they use.”

After starting to cook from scratch and starting to make her own cleaning and beauty products, the aspiring actress moved to California as was shocked to see all the litter and plastic in the ocean.

“I knew I had to do something; so, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. I stopped buying plastic and wanted to create a sustainable life. It felt like a really natural progression,” she recalls.

Living in the Bay area and spending her free time hiking and cooking, she worked a 9-5 job and is one of a number of young millennial women responsible for promoting a zero-waste lifestyle revolution that has taken off in a big way.

Kathryn’s blog, Going Zero Waste, was launched in March 2015 and by the time she was profiled in The Guardian a year later, was attracting 10,000 page views a month and had 800 subscribers.

The focus of her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts is all about homemade products and simple shopping tips that can help avoid unnecessary waste. The goal is to ensure her trash for the past year – anything that hasn’t been composted or recycled – fits in an 8oz jar.

She’s not alone – over in Chicago, Celia Ristow of Litterless espouses a similar zero waste vibe.

And it’s got to make sense. One of the best things about her blog is her desire to make things accessible and attainable: so that for anyone starting out on the zero waste journey or just wanting to be a little more eco-friendly, her first suggestion is always the ‘Big Four’ simple, easy swaps popularised by Plastic Free July, an initiative which originated in Western Australia but which now involves participants around the world.

Kathryn advises that these four items – plastic bags, straws, single use water bottles and takeaway coffee cups – are easy to avoid and make-up a huge portion of waste in landfills and the ocean.

It’s a great starting point for reducing litter at the point of consumption – and just one of a series of straightforward tips on Kathryn’s website.

heder-neves-177219-unsplashLESS IS BEST: steering clear of plastic [PICTURE: Heder Neves, Unsplash]

In fact, this is just one of more than 300 blog posts full of zero waste tips. For anyone starting out on the journey, Kathryn’s Beginners’ Guide is as good a place as anywhere to start.

Beyonder holds litter ‘audit’

THE BEYONDER is holding a ‘litter audit’ across South Bucks to help assess the best way of planning a clean-up campaign in the area.

Editor Andrew Knight has written to local parish and district councils asking for information about the scale of the litter and fly-tipping problem and for information about how current resources are organised.

The initial area covered stretches from Marlow to Denham, Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, Chalfont St Peter and Chalfont St Giles. It includes the whole of South Bucks District, along with parts of Chiltern and Wycombe district council areas.

Mr Knight said: “It’s a beautiful part of the Chilterns which includes three country parks but there are some through roads which are badly affected by littering and some tiny back routes which suffer from occasional fly-tipping.”

The issue has been getting increasing national exposure, most recently on this year’s BBC Springwatch series, when Michaela Strachan spoke to a number of groups in Bristol about their efforts to combat plastic pollution.

DfFhmjFXUAEZuoW.jpg largeCOTTON BUD CRACKDOWN: Michaela Strachan meets Natalie Fee in Bristol

Meanwhile Michelle Medler  in Kidderminster recruited hundreds of helpers from youngsters to pensioners to join her Facebook group litter pick-up squad.

MICHEELECLEANING UP: Michelle Medler and fellow volunteers in Kidderminster

Now, to work out the scale of the problem in the Chilterns and the best way of tackling it, The Beyonder has contacted a score of parish councis asking what they are doing to cope with litter and fly-tipping, what problems they are encountering and how much it all costs.

Approaches will also be made to the three district councils in South Buckinghamshire, which are responsible for waste collection, and the county council, which looks after the highways and deals with fly-tipping complaints and waste disposal.

The survey follows consultation with campaign group Clean Up Britain, which recently launched a pioneering year-long anti-litter project in Leamington Spa, and Peter Silverman, whose Clean Highways website has long campaigned for the Highways Agency to do more to tackle litter on local motorways and motorway slip roads.

Mr Knight said: “Although our circulation area stretches over quite a large area it made sense for us to start off by assessing things on our doorstep, where we can see the scale of the problem for ourselves.”

The online magazine hopes to speak to countryside rangers, ramblers and dog walkers as well as campaigners and the relevant councils, with the aim of drawing up detailed plans for the best way of volunteers being able to play a part in tackling the problem.

For more information, contact editor@thebeyonder.co.uk or via the Facebook group, The Beyonder.

Council hails litter ‘heroes’

MICHEELEVOLUNTEER litter pickers in Kidderminster have been hailed as local heroes by their district council for organising a series of litter picks around the town.

More than 300 members of the Facebook group Keeping Kidderminster and Surrounding Places Clean have been getting out and about their local streets and neighbourhoods picking up litter and disposing of it in litter bins around the district.

The idea stemmed from local teacher Michelle Medler’s new year resolution to pick up a bag of litter a day while walking her dogs – and mushroomed into a community supported by hundreds of volunteers.

Michelle said: “I’m amazed at how many people care and want to make a difference, which is great to know, and the positive comments from the public make it all worthwhile.”

After launching the group in January, she was surprised to see it grow into a 400-strong group after she initiated a number of communal litter picks in different parts of the town. Membership has since doubled to more than 800.

She soon won plaudits from councillors and council officers too. Youngsters and retired pensioners have been among the groups taking part – and Wyre Forest District Council, which has street cleaning reponsibilities in the area, praised Michelle and supplied volunteers with litter pickers, high visibility jackets and gloves, as well as advice about safely disposing of any dangerous items they came across.

Cabinet member for operational services Councillor Rebecca Vale said: “It is truly remarkable to hear about the positive impact these volunteers have had and I’d like to thank every one of them. We spend a lot of time, effort and money cleaning our streets – this just goes to show what a huge difference we can make to the look and feel of the district by working together.”

The Kidderminster model is one The Beyonder is keen to explore further. Beyonder editor Andrew Knight said: “The Kidderminster group are doing an amazing job and seem to have a real community spirit. They can also see the impact they are having on making the town cleaner – and it’s great that the district council has been so supportive.”

The Beyonder is carrying out a local audit before deciding how to pursue its anti-litter campaign in the Chilterns. It is in the process of contacting local parish, district and county councils to find out more about existing waste collection activities across south Buckinghamshire from Marlow to Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, Chalfont St Giles, Chalfont St Peter and Denham.

 

Campaign has ‘killer’ warning

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ANTI-LITTER campaigners Clean Up Britain have published a hard-hitting second video in their drive to spell out the danger posed to animals by discarded plastics, cans, cigarette butts and chewing gum.

Launched as part of Now or Never, a ground-breaking year-long behavioural change project in Leamington Spa, the four-minute Litter Kills video graphically spells out the impact of discarded litter on wildlife and pets.

Clean Up Britain founder John Read said: “We understand the images are upsetting – that’s the point. We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.”

The video provides more detail about the type of problems encountered by the RSPCA, which receives 5,000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. It explains how bones from discarded takeaways can kill – and how chemicals in chewing gum and cigarette ends can be poisonous for animals.

Even onions can be toxic to cats and dogs, which can also be made ill by mouldy food or choke on balloons released to mark a celebration. Likewise, wild birds can be killed or injured by plastic rings and  the sharp edges of discarded cans.

The video is part of a year-long campaign in the Warwickshire town designed to change people’s attitudes towards litter.

The campaign includes an educational pack for schools designed for 8- to 11-year-olds designed to teach them why dropping litter is bad for the environment, wildlife and communities.

It comes on a day when the UN revealed 50 nations are now taking action to reduce plastic pollution.

The UN report reveals that the Galapagos will ban single-use plastics, Sri Lanka will ban styrofoam and China is insisting on biodegradable bags.

But the authors warn that far more needs to be done to reduce the vast flow of plastic into rivers and oceans.

Litter campaign gathers pace

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IT’s exciting to see a dynamic new nationwide campaign being launched by a small group of professionals united by a shared passion for looking after our environment – and growing concerns about litter.

Clean Up Britain (CLUB) has been lobbying hard for a national litter campaign as well as inspiring and enabling communities and businesses to tackle a range of recycling and environmental issues, from reducing single-use plastics to clamping down on fly-tipping and roadside litter.

Founded by John Read, who has extensive experience in campaigning, corporate communications and public affairs, CLUB launched its Litter Kills initiative last month with the following message:

The UK has a serious litter problem. Take a look around you – every village, town, city, beach and roadside is blighted with the lazy leftovers of our daily lives.

We’ve been wrestling hard with how to properly ignite the conversation about litter and the damage it does.

In particular, we need to get to young women and men, age 16-30, who don’t even think about litter. This age group, while outwardly professing a love of the planet, recycling and other green issues, over-indexes on littering compared to other age groups.

It’s been ages since a national anti-litter campaign ran which changed littering behaviours, the topic of littering gets no airtime with this audience, and any wider efforts to prompt thinking and behaviour change has been largely ineffective.

Litter doesn’t really figure on their radar. Yet.

We had seen the RSPCA stats – they get 5,000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. Instinctively, we knew that this must be the tip of the iceberg.

We also knew, from previous research, that talking about hurt and dead animals was one of the only ways to ignite the conversation about litter with our target audience.

And so we began looking hard at the impacts of litter on animals, and with help of  the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the pet charity Blue Cross, we built the bigger, shocking picture. Our campaign ‘Litter Kills’ was born.

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CLUB recognises the images are shocking, but believes that’s necessary:

We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter, and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.

We’re supposedly a nation of pet and animal lovers. British households in total host 8.5m dogs and 8m cats. Millions of us care about wildlife and enjoy seeing wild animals where we live, work and play.

Yet our littering habit affects thousands and thousands of animals in a very bad, sometimes fatal, way.

Tragically, the images selected for the campaign are all real, selected from countless case studies of animals injured or poisoned by discarded takeaways, mouldy food or broken glass.

The “litter kills it’s time to act” message is part of CLUBs Now or Never campaign which kicked off in Leamington Spa and received widespread local and national media coverage.

And earlier news releases have focused on issues like fly-tipping, another issue close to our hearts at The Beyonder.

Back in March last year, CLUB warned busy residents not to unwittingly pay rogue traders to dispose of their waste.

The message was simple: make a quick check with the Environment Agency to see if they have a waste carrier permit, rather than risking a huge fine for having the waste disposed of illegally.  Any legitimate trader should be happy to provide their name or registration number. The agency can be contacted by phone on 03708 506 506).

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