We are just over half way through our Spring Trail Cleans 2021 and we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of you –our amazing TrashMob – heading out and conducting your own trail cleans. We, as always, are genuinely moved by every person’s effort. The Do It Ourselves Toolkit has been downloaded over and over again and you’ve been out there – in sunshine, snow and everything in between – removing single-use pollution from our trails and wild places.
The Toolkit is made up of the nine rubbish ‘Rs’: Recognise, Route, Rally, Remove, Record, Recycle, Report, Reward, Repeat. We talked a little in our last post about why each of the steps are so important to us. While our reason for existing is based around the removal of trash, we are so much more, so we thought we’d share a few stories from our trusty TRASHMOB to show the impact that some of those steps can have. These guys are a real-life testament to the power of individual action. They are tangible examples of how we can all make a difference that goes way beyond what we can physically achieve alone. So, in the spirit of the Toolkit, we want to reward them, and all of you, with a shout out. Well done for all your work so far: we, and your local spaces truly appreciate it. And don’t forget, there is still time to get involved – whether that’s large scale or small – it all counts!
Matt Kennelly’s work is based on a small industrial estate in Wadebridge, Cornwall. It’s like thousands of other estates around the country – small businesses, a car dealer and a few superstores. It also borders on to a field and some woods through which Matt rides through.
Matt became aware of TFT last year and has been conducting his own trail cleans for a while now. He had his targets set on something a little bigger for this year’s Spring Trail Clean though...
The field, verges and even the roads of the industrial estate had a serious litter problem. The scale of it was so big, that even Matt had almost stopped noticing it. Litter was just part of the scenery. It is the kind of place that often gets called wasteland: scrappy, unused and uncared for. Maybe we need to find a new term for it though, because no land should be seen as a waste on our crowded island. Neglected land maybe?
Over to Matt: ‘I decided I wanted to remove the years and years of litter that had built up. It turned out to be a slightly bigger job than I first thought! On my first day, I spent four hours and only managed to clear a 10x10m area!’
An epic effort, but just a dent in the overall problem, so he went back. This time Matt and a friend worked for five hours. Amazing, but there was still a long way to go. A different tack was needed.
Report… then Repeat
This is where Matt decided to get creative.
"I shared my efforts on a local community Facebook page. It became the top ‘liked’ post with thousands of thumbs-up and comments. People offered to donate money and members of the community have now done their own clean-ups in the area.”
Matt became a local celebrity and was regularly getting stopped while out riding in his TFT jersey. Someone even asked him to run for town council! He wasn’t finished there, though. He got in touch with all the businesses on the estate and explained what he was doing and asked for help. Ultimately, so much of the litter was as a direct result of their customers. He spoke to the Regional Manager of the Tesco, and they have now expanded their litter picking to take in the neglected area. The B+M Superstore now runs a twice weekly litter pick as a direct result of Matt walking into the store and asking to chat with someone. Many of the smaller companies donated [LINK] to TFT. Over £500 has now been raised!
For a similar amount of effort that Matt had put into his original clean up, he amplified the impact of his work many times over. The simple act of raising awareness of his actions encouraged others to join in. Sometimes it's easy to forget that big faceless companies like Tesco are still run by people, and at a local level those people care just as much about their patch as we do. A short conversation lead to them offering their resources on an ongoing basis.
Nicola Bolton lives in the Lake District. It is a beautiful part of the world, but sometimes suffers as a direct result of that beauty and its accessibility: even more so in the last year.
Nic: ‘I heard about Trash Free Trails last year, and decided to set up the Lakes Plastic Collective as a way to raise awareness of the littering problem in the Lake District National Park.’
‘We use Facebook and Instagram to share the efforts of locals and visitors to clean up – I didn’t realise when I set it up, but I think it filled a gap that people really needed. Individuals, local press and other organisations quickly got in touch with me’.
Since forming the group, Nic has been contacted by the National Park Authority and is working with them, the BMC and Friends of the Lakes to create a collective plan to tackle all aspects of the rubbish problem: from strategies for prevention to organised clean-ups. Some of their plans so far have been thwarted by Covid, but the last year has shown how important it will be.
This Spring, Nic discovered the remains of an abandoned campsite on the banks of Thirlmere. She took photos of the ‘before’: partially collapsed tents, filled with rubbish and simply left behind by the same people who were enjoying the Lakes the night before.
She, and another volunteer of the LPC – Matthew – removed 18 bags of rubbish in total, and six tents. We, and the Lakes Plastic Collective spend a lot of time talking about single-use pollution, like plastic bottles and food wrappers because it is what makes up the vast majority of the trash found on our trails. It’s even sadder that something like a tent is now becoming seen as ‘single use’ and disposable when even the cheapest models are designed to be used over and over again. It’s important that we record instances like this, to get the fullest picture of the current rubbish problem: and then focus our efforts on tackling it.
By the time they were done, there was no trace of the ‘fly-campers’. While sifting through the rubbish, Nic also found the name and address of one of the culprits and passed it on to the police, who are pursuing a prosecution.
One of the great things about the Lakes Plastic Collective is the sense of community that Nic has built. Everyone shares photos of their efforts on the Facebook group and they take the time to celebrate each other’s achievements. It’s not about backslapping for the sake of it, but just the recognition that someone else has gone out of their way to improve the environment of their home.
Nic is keen to avoid a ‘them and us’ mentality. While the large number of visitors to the Lakes is potentially a huge problem, the vast majority love the outdoors as much as its residents do. More and more visitors are becoming members of the LPC and contributing their time and efforts too. Next time you travel there to ride, run or roam, look them up and see how you can support the cause!
Thanks again to Matt, Nic and everyone else who has taken part in Spring Trail Clean 2021. If you are heading out this week or next, please do share your efforts with us. We’d love to hear all about them!