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Just how much is really out there?

You know those seemingly innocuous questions that you sometimes ask yourself, or get challenged to answer, probably by an enquiring child?

Why does the sun always rise?

Why are oranges orange?

Where do babies come from?

Our big question

Well… we have another that we ponder regularly at TFT HQ, albeit not quite as embarrassing to answer in a crowded cafe. How much litter – or, as I am sure you know by now, we prefer to call it single-use pollution (SUP) – is there really out there? We see it virtually every time we head out into our woods and hillsides on our bikes or on foot, but how much do we see? And how much do we miss as we cruise on by, with our eyes focussed on the trail ahead? Is there more, less, the same than last time we passed by?

We obviously observe a lot more litter when we are out conducting a trail clean. Our SUP-y senses tingle as we hunt out crisp packets claimed by brambles and bottles hidden in root systems. But, we don’t always count everything that we see. Even those of you who are super-amazing-A++++ TrashMOBBers and complete a record of your trail clean will tend to only record what you were able to remove… not the sum total of what you saw. There’s always those bits that are too hard to reach or you have to leave behind as your bag is bursting at the seams. And even the most dedicated of us sometimes simply want to banish the obvious litter we stumble across without logging what we did.

Why does it matter though? Surely the important thing is removing as much SUP as we can? Well, yes, it is and it will always be the heart and soul of why we exist. Can you tell there’s a “but” coming? Actually, it isn’t a “but” and more of an “and”. All of that is important AND we want to measure the quantity of SUP on our trail networks right now, and on an ongoing basis so we can tell whether everything else that we are doing is actually having an impact.

Citizen Science… and a small trial

That’s why our A-Team ambassadors headed out on one weekend in March to conduct a Trash Count. Using the best digital tools for the job we asked them to:

So almost 30 A-Teamers headed out and got counting here’s a few stats...

Distance covered: 191km Elevation climbed: 3412m

Items counted: 965 items Most littered type of item: Confectionary wrappers and full dog poo bags Weird and wonderful: Abundance of Buckfast in Glasgow

Long term aims

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll already know that one Trash Count is kinda interesting, but what’s really cool is if we start to repeat that process on a regular basis and compare the results. Our plan is to create a scientifically robust, user friendly, citizen science data collection methodology. We want to gather at least 60 scientifically robust data sets from at least 30 locations in 2022, that will be included in a Bangor University Research Project.

To do that we are recruiting 30 long term ‘Trash Counters’ who will commit to delivering ‘Trash Counts’ at their adopted trail/s until at least 2025.

In the longer run, we will establish the Trash Count as a biannual (March and September) mass participation citizen science project that will run until at least 2030.

Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh, I want to join in!

Our next coordinated Trash Count will take place in autumn. If you are interested, we’ll share details and a how-to nearer the time.


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