It’s a familiar yet unwelcome sight across many cities – piles of litter; be it fly- tipping or one off items, dumped at the side of the road.
Unfortunately, Sheffield is no different, with many areas being repeatedly blighted by unsightly rubbish. And whilst everyone would like to see litter-free communities, it’s a problem that is notoriously difficult to prevent.
Not only is littering antisocial, but it can also be dangerous as well as damaging to the environment.
At the forefront of litter clearing in Sheffield is the council’s highways contractor, Amey, who, as part of the Streets Ahead contract, has a responsibility to keep the city’s roads and pavements clean.
Their programme includes the city centre, where emptying bins, picking up litter, glass, needles, and anything else that is left behind, contributes to the enormous and non-stop clean-up effort.
But one of the biggest challenges facing Streets Ahead is keeping up with the sheer amount of litter and fly-tipping on a daily basis, as one of the Streets Ahead Area Highways Representatives explains;
“Litter clearance is a relentless cycle and one which could be easily avoided if people disposed of their litter properly,” said Melissa Wise, Operations Director for Amey Streets Ahead.
“In just one week recently, out of the 125 jobs we received for fly-tipping in the north-east of Sheffield, ten were to collect white goods- mainly fridges and washing machines- and 13 were mattresses.
“The more we pick up, the more rubbish is put out, and it seems as though it’s easier for some people to leave it out on the street rather than take it to a local household waste recycling centre- of which Sheffield has five.”
But despite the prevalence of litter in some areas of the city, community groups are rallying together more than ever before and thinking of smarter ways to combat the issue once and for all.
Leading the way on the litter-free road to success is a group in the north of Sheffield, focussed on educating others, behaviour change and tackling local litter problems head-on.
In recent months Firth Park Community Forum has been working hard to identify why people drop litter in the first instance and is approaching local business owners to ask for their support.
Sarah Hardy, one of the founding members of the Forum said:
“With Longley College and Firth Park Academy close by, there are lots of youngsters stopping at the local takeaways for their lunch. As a result, we see an increase in takeaway litter- especially polystyrene trays- so we’re looking into eco-friendly packaging and talking to the shop owners about preventative action.
“If enough business owners are interested we may be able to buy environmentally friendly alternative packaging in bulk, saving the businesses money as well as helping to cut down on detrimental waste.”
Firth Park Community Forum is already starting to make progress; with its community litter pick in May attracting over 40 people plus regular attendance at litter picks on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“We want to build momentum by identifying the little things we can do, such as writing to the local betting shop about cigarette litter outside their premises and asking whether they could sponsor an extra litter bin,” added Sarah. “The little things will eventually turn into bigger things, which will start to make a valuable difference.”
Residents on one street in the area, Firth Park Crescent, have also joined forces to help keep their street clean and tidy and are hoping to entice more nearby residents so that the area can continue to be enjoyed by everyone.
Increased activity by local groups is borne out by the number of requests Streets Ahead receive to collect bags of litter.
Overall last year, there were 467 requests to collect bags of collected rubbish, almost double the amount in 2017. But this year alone, Streets Ahead has received 491 requests- demonstrating the increasing impact the community is having across the city.
Melissa Wise says,
“It’s great that we are seeing residents come up with their own initiatives to tackle litter and we are blown away every day by the selflessness of those who give up their time to clear rubbish from our streets.
“And whilst we continue to support the fantastic work going on across Sheffield, our ultimate goal is for the need to litter pick to be eradicated completely by more people taking responsibility for their own waste and acknowledging that dropping litter is a criminal offence.”
And it’s not just community groups that are fighting back.
Several Sheffield schools have also whole-heartedly embraced the anti-litter ethos as part of the Streets Ahead education programme, which encourages pupils to put litter in the bin or take it home.
In recent months, visits to Phillimore Community Primary School and Oasis Academy Fir Vale have seen hundreds of school children get the ‘litter bug’ by taking part in litter picks with Phil the Bin, the Streets Ahead litter mascot. And at Hinde House Primary School, organised by the Firth Park Community Forum, kids have been busy designing anti-litter posters, with prizes being awarded for the best ones.
“The pupils thoroughly enjoyed their litter pick, managing to fill two large bags of plastic and cardboard from in and around the school,” says Laura Tasker, one of the teachers at Phillimore Community Primary School.
“We have more activities planned involving pupils, and their parents, so that all of us are working together to keep our local community as litter-free and clean as possible.”
Combatting litter remains a top priority for the council and since January 2019, the council has issued 1290 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN’s) to tackle the minority of people who continue to drop litter.
Do you want to get involved in your local area by organising a litter pick? Find out more at: www.sheffield.gov.uk/cleansheffield