Litter (or as we prefer to call it, single-use pollution) can feel overwhelming. How often have you stopped at a beauty spot, paused at the side of a trail or just looked down while walking along only to have your enjoyment of the time and place shattered by the sight of crisp packets, plastic bottles and cans?
Psychologically, it can feel like a problem so large and so ubiquitous that one person alone can never fight the tide.
That is why our Spring Trail Clean will always be one of the mainstays of our calendar. We have many strands to our work; from scientific research and developing our education and understanding to encouraging purposeful adventures. But, fundamentally, if there is one activity that defines and encapsulates the essence of Trash Free Trails it’s the trail clean.
Whether solo, or as a group, a single piece of single-use pollution or an entire skip, the trail clean is everyone’s opportunity to make a positive impact on the trails and wild places that they care about. It’s worth remembering that every single crisp packet or drink bottle ever dropped in the woods and on the moors, stuffed into dry stone walls or tossed in hedges would still be there had someone not taken the thoughtful act of picking it up and removing it.
The Trash Free Trails Spring Trail Clean is a celebration of what we – every single one of us – can do, right now. That is why we are calling on the population as a whole, but especially those of us who are riders, runners and roamers to roll up their sleeves and take care of the places they love. If the current litter problem is the result of millions of acts of carelessness, let’s counter that by even more acts of care.
During the month of April, we are simply asking you, yes you, to conduct a trail clean. What does that mean? Well, we have a tonne of resources on our website, including our Do It Ourselves Toolkit, which provides loads of useful information and ideas, but at its very essence, we are asking you to pick up some of the single-use pollution that blights your local area and take it home with you. And in this case we are asking for nothing more and nothing less. A simple act is a powerful one, especially when it is repeated by thousands of people.
One Bag Challenge
Removing just one piece of single-use pollution makes a difference, but we are calling on people to undertake a “one bag challenge”, heading out from their front door or trailhead and filling up just one bag with any single-use pollution that they find. Whether it’s a five minute activity at the end of a run or a ride, or a day long adventure; something done as an individual or a good excuse to get some mates together, we don’t mind. If you do that just once in April, you’ve made a positive impact. If they do it twice or more often, then wow, their trails will be all the more healthy for it. There are no rules.
Events and partners
Alongside encouraging everyone to get out there and take part Trash Free Trails and our incredible partners will be running a number of organised trail cleans during April. Those will be published via our social media channels and on our website in the run up to the Spring Trail Clean, so if you’d rather hook up with others, then keep an eye out for something happening locally… or consider gathering up your pals and telling us about it!
We will then be celebrating the Grand Finale to the Spring Trail Clean on 30 April in Bristol. This year, three teams will be heading out to remove as much single-use pollution as possible from Bristol’s trails. Leaving from the Trek Bikes store, the Left Handed Giant Brewpub and Pedal Progression, riders, runners and roamers of all shapes and sizes will converge on Ashton Court and the Avon Gorge Riverbank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t you encourage trail cleans all year round? We do, and encourage anyone to conduct a trail clean as often as they like, whenever they like. Spring is a great time to get out though; hedges and undergrowth haven’t yet begun to grow, making it easier to spot that rogue single-use pollution… and there’s a reasonable chance of being able to pick a good weather day!
What if I want to fill up more than one bag? One bag is a simple, achievable target, but we are genuinely stoked if more people start picking up even a single item that they spot on the trail. Equally, if you want to go crazy and carry out as much as you can, more power to you!
I usually record my findings on your website, should I not do that now? Recording the single-use pollution that you find and telling us about it is really, really useful for some of our longer term aims. It helps us monitor trends and build up a picture of the nature of the single-use pollution that you are finding. But, and it’s a big but, we would far, far rather have someone get out there and do a trail clean (and nothing more) rather than decide not to because they felt overwhelmed with the task of counting and recording. If you would like to tell us what you found you can do so here.
What’s the point, the litter always returns anyway? It can be so demoralising to see single-use pollution slowly returning to a place that has been cleaned. But, there is evidence to suggest that people are more likely to drop an item of single-use pollution if they can see litter. And there is still a positive impact on the environment and people’s enjoyment of that wild place for the time it is returned to a more natural order. As an organisation, we are also putting in a huge amount of effort and resources to tackling the issue of single-use pollution on both fronts: stopping it in the first place and removing what still makes its way into the wilds.
I don’t live near the countryside. Can I still take part? Just because we are called Trash Free Trails doesn’t mean we don’t care about parks, alleyways, roundabouts or small corners of urban woodland. Anywhere that you use or care about is fair game as far as we are concerned.