Tower Hamlets’ fourth week-long The Big Clean Up campaign was bigger than ever before with more volunteers collecting rubbish.
The event underlined the real and tangible scale of the littering problem that affects the local community and the communities’ determination to tackle it.
At 11 events over a week, a total of 74 large bags filled with litter, were collected by 83 volunteers. In addition, larger scale items were found strewn across sites that regularly get cleaned and tidied.
A range of locations received The Big Clean Up treatment. From estates and their surrounding streets, through to the entrances to large parks. From stretches of the Regent’s Canal to quieter residential streets. Areas were identified through nominations received online and by analysing issues raised through other council channels (such as the FiFiLi application).
Rubbish collected included crisp packets, plastic wrappers, drink cans and bottles, paper and newspapers, soiled nappies, glass, porcelain, bits of metal, clothing and needles – demonstrating that litter is not just the result of a bin being knocked over.
Larger scale items collected included tables, chairs (and chair frames), carpets, bedding, tarpaulin, shovels, bicycles and bicycle frames, umbrellas, large metal railings (over 2m in length) and even a motorbike. All were found across the 11 clean ups.
The simple question is: how much cleaner would the borough be if this wasn’t just thrown onto the streets?
Volunteer participants ranged from members of the public (including some who attended more than one event) council staff, councillors, representatives from partner organisations and Tower Hamlets council’s Chief Executive, Will Tuckley and Mayor John Biggs.
A total of 11 organisations supported, collaborated with or partnered the Big Clean Up events, including: Veolia UK, The GoodGym (including two GoodGym groups – Tower Hamlets and King’s College London), Tower Hamlets Homes, The Canal and River Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, The Women’s Environment Network, The Aldgate Partnership and CleanupUK.
Each week the council cleans 7,000km of streets within the fastest growing borough (in terms of population in the country) in the UK. With over 300,000 residents, and thousands more travelling through, each day in Tower Hamlets brings litter is an inevitable issue.
However, almost 7,000 tonnes of litter were collected last year, at a cost of nearly £6m. Not only is that a lot of money that could be spent on other services, but these figures show how (on average) one tonne of litter is collected per kilometre of street each year.
As a result, finding large numbers of locations that are completely strewn with litter is far more difficult than many might imagine (especially due to the regular rubbish collections). But with so many locations having been cleaned less than a week before, the fact that litter was still collected just underlines the casual attitude some have to neighbourhood cleanliness.
Loving our neighbourhoods and ending the litter blight
The Big Clean Up is part of the ‘Love Your Neighbourhood campaign’, which aims to work with local people to improve the areas where they live, and a few clean up events demonstrated just how big the litter issue is:
1 –The Canal and River Trust (one of our partners) recently published research that showed simply spending time by waterway can make you happier and improve life satisfaction. Unfortunately, bike frames, shovels, railings, a motorbike, several bags of rubbish and other items were collected from inside or around the Regent’s Canal.
2 – 32 volunteers from the public and The GoodGym Tower Hamlets congregated around the entrance to Victoria Park the evening after the end of the All Points East festival. In spite of the site receiving comprehensive clean up treatment during the hours immediately after the end of the festival, 15 full sacks of trash were still collected. It wasn’t just cigarette butts trodden into the ground either but large scale food boxes, plastic wrappings, cans, bottles etc. In other words, 15 full sacks dropped in under a day!
3 – In two events (starting on Copperfield Road and by the entrance to Bethnal Green library), small groups of volunteers arrived to see an area not obviously strewn with everyday debris. In a little over 35 minutes, however, a total of 16 full sacks were collected. Again, the amount of litter collected simply underlines just how much is casually thrown away, and just goes to show that ‘out of sight’ is anything but out of mind.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, reflected on the week long campaign, and said:
“Cleaning up our streets is one of my key priorities. I was delighted to join the latest Big Clean Up with volunteers who have come together to clean up their local area. Our residents have pride in their neighbourhoods, and as a council we continue to invest in new street sweeping”.
Cllr David Edgar, Cabinet Member for Environment, added:
“It’s great to see volunteers and partners coming together and being committed to keeping our streets clean and free of litter. The reception by local communities and participants has been incredibly positive. Big Clean Up events encourage everyone to play a small part – not only by tidying up, but also by spreading the word that the most effective contribution one can make is not to discard items on our streets.”