Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure have joined together with Parks for London and 16 other organisations including the Mayor and nine local councils to launch a new campaign, ‘Clean Parks for London’, starting this April 2022.
Led by Parks for London, an independent charity and Centre for Excellence for green space management, the pan-London campaign aims to tackle this unsightly and costly problem by encouraging park users to be part of the solution, by simply taking home what they bring with them.
Litter’s heavy cost
The cost of litter collection and disposal for London’s parks and green spaces alone is estimated to be in the region of £14.8 million per annum, based on results from Parks for London’s recent survey of London’s local authorities. This figure is likely to be upwards of £16 million when considering the costs incurred by other landowners, not to mention the indirect costs associated with impacts on business activity and tourism from sullied environments in badly littered areas.
Beyond the financial toll, littering has environmental and public health implications too. Litter disposed with bin waste cannot be recycled and either ends up in landfill or is incinerated, becoming a source of environmental pollution affecting water, soil and air. Improperly discarded litter not only attracts vermin and can spread diseases, it can also find its way into waterways, rivers and oceans, harming wildlife, people and ecosystems.
Research shows that high levels of litter can make people feel unsafe and dissuade them from enjoying public green spaces for among other things exercise and stress relief, thereby undermining their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Rise of litter
During the pandemic, people turned to their local parks in droves for exercise or solace and relief from stressful situations. However, this increased footfall led to unprecedented levels of litter and waste, putting an additional strain on already stretched budgets and manpower. Keep Britain Tidy’s 2020 survey of over 100 local authorities in England revealed that 81% had to increase spending to keep litter in check.
Given that untidiness in public spaces itself can cause further littering and other anti-social behaviours or crimes in what researchers refer to as ‘the spreading of disorder’, interventions that reduce littering by the slightest amount could reap big societal benefits.
Taking down litter
As the spring holidays approach, London’s landowners and managers will be gearing up for increased parks visits and a corresponding rise in littering. Despite differences in how littering is managed and enforced within their managed spaces, partners will progressively adopt a unified message on litter under the ‘Clean Parks for London’ campaign starting this spring.
This campaign builds upon Parks for London’s active work on litter and waste management where parties with an interest in reducing litter within their parks and green space have come together to discuss localised litter issues, share best and innovative practices and strategies, with the aim of reducing litter and associated costs and changing public behaviour towards litter.
Tony Leach, Chief Executive of Parks for London, said:
“We all love using our parks when they’re looking clean and tidy but seeing litter spoils it for everyone. Littering is antisocial and puts people off using parks. Clearing up litter costs time and money, and who pays? Every person who pays council tax pays for litter clearance. Wouldn’t you rather see that money spent on making your parks better? We hope that this campaign will encourage more and more people to take responsibility for their rubbish, so that the money saved from litter collection and disposal can be better spent on park improvements. Please be an influencer and take your rubbish home, thank you.”
Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vital importance of London’s green spaces for Londoners’ health and wellbeing. Litter not only directly impacts people’s ability to enjoy our wonderful parks, but also affects wildlife and pollutes our waterways. It is everyone’s responsibility to respect these fabulous spaces. The simple act of taking litter home and disposing of it responsibly means we can all appreciate the benefits these spaces provide.”
See our Volunteer in Redbridge Parks page for more information on how you can help.