I believe the number one reason not to litter is to safeguard our oceans. There’s no filter — if you drop a cigarette butt in a gutter, it will end up in the sea. If we do not protect our oceans, we will die, writes Kirstie Allsopp (pictured)
One afternoon we were walking near our home in Devon when my sons Bay, Oscar and stepson Hal spotted something in the bushes.
They scampered over to retrieve it and returned triumphant, brandishing a pale brown handbag.
The boys were beside themselves. They considered it a real coup. Thankfully, we were able to get it back to the owner via her driving licence; it turned out it had been stolen and dumped.
Admittedly, it was one of our better finds — and perhaps it doesn’t strictly qualify as rubbish — but it illustrates how much fun litter-picking can be.
Clearing up after other people may not sound like entertainment but I genuinely recommend it as a family activity.
Not only is it a hugely satisfying and worthwhile thing to do but, with younger children, it becomes a sort of reverse treasure hunt. They love spotting things — the more unusual the better.
As a family, wherever we are in the world, we don’t leave the house without taking a bag to collect litter. Sadly, there is never a dearth of items to pick up — whether we’re in cities, on beaches, up mountains or strolling in the countryside. It’s a national disgrace.
That’s why I’m backing this year’s Great British Spring Clean to encourage each and every one of you to get out there and do your bit to tidy up your community.
We might not be able to meet in large groups at the moment, but it’s incredible what can be achieved on your own or on a family walk. Why not start today?
As a long-term ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy, I’m a passionate litter-picker. And I’m increasingly concerned that the pandemic is spawning more litter louts than ever before.
Then there’s the fear that everything is covered in germs, which I suspect is impacting on people’s instinct to pick up rubbish.
We are understandably more germ-phobic but Covid has done nothing to affect my own regular litter- picking. After all, you can wear gloves and use litter-picker devices; we’ve got quite a collection.
Every day, we come across that new scourge — the discarded disposable mask. They’re everywhere; blowing around like leaves in the gutter, trampled into the mud on country paths.
Three million face masks are thrown away every minute around the world. Experts warn it could soon lead to environmental catastrophe. They pose a greater risk to the environment than carrier bags because of their ubiquity and the fact there is no way to safely decontaminate and recycle them.
In the UK alone, 53 million masks are ending up in landfill each day. The scariest part is all the others that don’t make it into the bin. Masks are being found in streams, rivers and oceans.
I believe the number one reason not to litter is to safeguard our oceans. There’s no filter — if you drop a cigarette butt in a gutter, it will end up in the sea. If we do not protect our oceans, we will die.
Another reason to pick up litter is that it makes people feel unsafe and encourages further littering. People should feel happy and secure within their community and having our streets litter-free is a very important part of that.
I live with a passionate picker-upper of litter. My partner Ben will screech the car to a halt to pick up something by the roadside. If ever I’m in a car crash, it will be because Ben slammed on the brakes to put something in the bin.
Joking aside, it means our children have been brought up to do it. And I think we do all need to teach our kids to take responsibility for litter from a young age.
On one level it helps them to connect with where they live. And there’s nothing more satisfying than coming back with bags of litter you’ve cleared. Or, in our case, it’s sometimes a rather rickety homemade trolley that the boys often take out with them.
There was a huge row between my two sons when they both spotted the same car mudguard. Both wanted to claim it as their find and pick it up.
Fly-tipping is more difficult to help with — we are lucky because we have the trailer to collect things and take them to the council tip.
We’ve all done a lot of clearing out during lockdown. The key is to help each other dispose of larger items properly — a relative without a car, for example, or someone who has been shielding.
There are so many ways in which we can help keep Britain tidy. Your support can change our world — and your little corner of it — for the better.
His first words were ‘litter picker’
Hafsa Mekki, 31, is the studio co-ordinator for a team of architects. She lives in Moss Side, Manchester, with husband Gemal, 31, an economist, and their two-year-old son Hakeem.
Maternity leave was a lonely time for me. Going out on litter picks provided a bit of time to be ‘me’.
In January 2020, I formed a litter-picking group called the Moss Side Eco Squad. I remember that first day, standing on a corner, wondering if anyone would turn up. To my relief, nine people joined me and the squad has grown from there.
Through lockdown I’ve been regularly going out, often with Hakeem who has a tiny litter picker of his own. In fact, one of the first words he said was ‘litter picker’.
We are itching to get the group going again — lots more people have told me they’d like to be involved.
Hafsa Mekki, 31, is the studio co-ordinator for a team of architects. She lives in Moss Side, Manchester, with husband Gemal, 31, an economist, and their two-year-old son Hakeem (above)
Helen McMenamin Smith, 58, (above) lives near Cambridge with her husband John. They have a 23-year-old daughter, Alyx
Jenny Evanson, a freelance business development specialist, lives in Oxfordshire with her husband John and their nine-year-old son, Jethro (above, with his mum)
It brings our village together
Helen McMenamin Smith, 58, lives near Cambridge with her husband John. They have a 23-year-old daughter, Alyx.
My obsession with litter started on the outings my husband first took me on after I was involved in a serious car accident in 2013. We went to rural beauty spots, but the litter scattered all over these places really spoiled things for me. I started a litter-picking group in my village of Burwell and it’s now 40-strong.
Before lockdown we would meet up once a month to clean up the village. It is hugely rewarding and the other villagers are extremely grateful for the work we do.
A good clean-up boosts your mood
Jenny Evanson, a freelance business development specialist, lives in Oxfordshire with her husband John and their nine-year-old son, Jethro (right, with his mum).
Picking up litter is in my genes. Mum, now 82, taught us to always try to leave a place better than you found it.
Now we’ve encouraged our son Jethro to do his bit, too.
During months of home-schooling, our litter-picking walks helped keep us sane.
It’s hard to keep youngsters concentrating, to fire up their imagination and to keep things positive.
But I found suggesting a litter pick was a great way to get him out of the house.
To him, it is a ‘treasure hunt’, which is a far more exciting prospect than if I were to suggest we go out for a walk.
On our adventures, we talk about the impact of rubbish on the environment and the importance of recycling.