Could Keynsham become country's first litter-free town?

Published on: 06 Feb 2017

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A tyre, a gas canister, plastic barrels and countless empty bottles, crisp packets and food wrappers formed a pile of rubbish that was hard to miss at the side of Broadmead Lane on a Sunday afternoon in January.

Two hours earlier, more than 30 volunteers of all ages – families, individuals, members of the Lions Club, and church representatives – had met at the spot next to the town’s Waitrose store and set off in every direction armed with litter pickers and plastic sacks.

Their hi-visibility jackets could be seen along Unity Road behind the supermarket, in Ashmead Road, under the railway bridge along Stidham Lane and on sections of the A4 Bath Road, as the group tackled everything from the remnants of meals on the go to fly-tipped TVs and fridges.

The area, with little in the way of residential properties and a large amount of traffic, was chosen by volunteer litter pickers the Keynsham Wombles for their first “Big Womble” of 2017 – and there was plenty for them to do. 

Looking at the pile of over 40 bags of litter gathered up for Bath and North East Somerset Council’s waste team to collect, chief Womble Erica Davies explained why the group had chosen the area.

“It’s not a beauty spot that people appreciate,” she said. “There’s no sense of ownership, but all litter eventually makes its way into rivers and seas and harms wildlife wherever it is.”

Fellow Womble Jo Page added: “Wherever it is thrown down it harms the whole area as it blows around and it gives a negative impression to people who drive down here – we want it to look as if it’s being cared for.”

With individual Wombles keeping an eye on their own patches and regular mass clean-ups scheduled throughout the year, the volunteers are making a difference – but now Erica is thinking bigger than even the biggest of Big Wombles and tackling the scourge of littering before it even happens.

She wants to make Keynsham the UK’s first Litter Free Town, enlisting retailers, manufacturers, schools and more to change the whole community’s attitude to litter. With Keynsham as the pioneer, she hopes to create a model that could be replicated in towns and cities across the country and is bringing together people who could help put the plan into action.

She said: “It’s about getting the whole community to work together to change people’s attitudes so that people don’t just throw litter down, so it wouldn’t even enter our heads to do it. In places in other parts of the world, like Singapore, you just don’t drop litter.

“We want to look at how we can change that behaviour – it’s a really big task but if we can crack it in Keynsham as a pilot, we could replicate it across other towns, with an awards scheme.”

Representatives from Keep Britain Tidy and Cleanup UK will be visiting Keynsham to offer their support to developing the scheme and Erica is inviting schools, councillors, B&NES waste and recycling staff and many more to give their input.

Key to the scheme – and also one of the biggest challenges – is getting representatives from retailers and manufacturers involved.

“We want to talk to them about the possibility of educating people in stores or changing packaging so it’s biodegradable – this is an enormous challenge and will involve working with all sectors of our community to change ingrained behaviours.”

To find out more and get involved with Keynsham Wombles or the Litter Free Town initiative, contact Erica on 07713 417974 or email womble@transitionkeynsham.org.

On Saturday, March 4,the Wombles will also be taking part in The Great British Spring Clean from 2pm to 4pm at various points across Keynsham.

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