Volunteer litter busters have been working hard to keep Walsall’s streets free of rubbish – even during lockdown.
Walsall Community Litter Watch organises a couple of picks a month – one around the town centre and one in another part of the borough – while community groups also organise their own.
Lockdown hasn’t deterred them and it now organises “virtual” picks called Shine A Light Sunday, where individuals or households can set out to remove rubbish from their own neighbourhood.
And in the November event alone, 31 individuals took part in 20 litter picks, covering most of the borough, including Willenhall, Bloxwich, Caldmore, Birchills, Aldridge, Streetly, Walsall Wood, Pelsall, Darlaston and Alumwell, and collected 147 bags of rubbish.
Beth Deeley, one of the volunteer co-ordinators at Walsall Council’s Clean and Green department, said: “The first Shine a Light Sunday came about back in July. Volunteers were concerned about the amount of litter that could be generated by Super Saturday, the day the pubs reopened.
“So in response we created a targeted virtual pick called Shine a Light Sunday where we would shine a light on litter. After the success of the first one we thought we would bring it back again this November as our group picks have had to be cancelled again due to lockdown.
“We have a list of all of our planned picks on our Facebook group, then the virtual picks happen wherever each volunteer chooses to pick on Shine a light Sunday but we usually get a good spread.”
It’s easy to get involved in a virtual pick: all you need is a picker, a bag, an area to tidy and a camera phone. On the designated Shine a Light Sunday, you take a before photograph of the area you plan to tidy and afterwards when the work is complete, then upload it to the Facebook page.
“Our aim was to fill social media with these posts to help show the extent of the littering issue we are facing while reinforcing the anti-litter and supportive messages via our poster,” said Beth.
“In the current situation, we have also found that it helps people feel more included in the group pick even though we are picking alone.”
Councillor Oliver Butler, Cabinet Member for Clean and Green, said: “Last year Walsall Council spent £1.5m tackling the problem of litter that has been dropped by inconsiderate individuals who have no respect for their environment.
“Fortunately local volunteers do a great job giving their support to us in our fight against litter as a part of all our efforts to make Walsall a cleaner and greener place. Litter picking events are a great way to promote volunteering, spreading the anti-litter messages and highlighting the fantastic effort these individuals do for our communities.
“Events like these are also important in the current climate as they help people to feel connected and promote both physical and mental health.”
Among the army of volunteers, Vicky Atkins said: “Litter is damaging to nature, the environment, and it breeds a ‘don’t care’ attitude. If an area has litter, then others aren’t so concerned about dumping their litter there too.”
Elizabeth Worley, who attended her first virtual pick in November, added: “It’s the first time I’ve done a litter picking event as a part of a virtual group. I felt really included despite seeing no-one.”
Teresa Webb said she is proud to be a volunteer litter picker.
“Litter picking for me is making the place I live a better place for me and nice to see for others who appreciate it,” she said. “I have met so many lovely people and like to think I have helped a few with the positive effect you get from being out in nature making an impact on the environment, too.”
To get involved with virtual or physical picks head to: https://go.walsall.gov.uk/environment/litter/walsall_community_litter_watch or go to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WalsallCommunityLitterWatch.
You can also borrow equipment for litter picks by emailing: email@example.com