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Two people walking in high-vis jackets with litterpicking gear

Litter spoils our enjoyment of the countryside and can be harmful for wildlife and people. We’re working towards a litter-free countryside for everyone.

During the pandemic we saw a big increase in litter in our countryside, parks and towns.

As we came out of each lockdown and were able to meet a restricted number of people outdoors, many people made much more use of their local green spaces such as parks and commons as well as local beauty spots for socially distanced gatherings. It was wonderful to see people benefiting from being outdoors in nature; however with this came a steep increase in piles of rubbish being left behind, spoiling the countryside and posing a threat to wildlife.

We received numerous reports from members of the public who visited their local green space only to find piles of rubbish including food packaging, drinks bottles and cartons, plastic containers and used BBQs. In some cases the rubbish had been bagged up by whoever left it, as if waiting for the next person to come along and pick it up.

Our Chair Patricia Broadfoot said: “Our local green spaces and countryside next door really have shown their worth over lockdown. It has been so heartening to see more people getting out into these spaces, many of whom may be doing so for the first time. But with this increased footfall comes the serious challenge of a rise in litter. To tackle the blight of litter, we are urging everyone to take their litter home with them and dispose of it responsibly. Central government can play its part by taking a tough stance on litter and bringing forward proven methods of boosting recycling like an all-inclusive deposit return scheme. By harnessing this enthusiasm for the countryside and ensuring we promote recycling and responsible behavior, we can reach a litter free countryside.’

The countryside and local green spaces have been appreciated more during Covid-19 than ever before. Recent CPRE research found that in the South West 70% of adults think their local green space or nearby countryside could be enhanced, with the majority wanting to see more wildlife and a greater variety of plant life in their local green space. More research by CPRE and the WI found that 57% of people reported that the lockdown has made them more aware of the importance of local green spaces for our mental health and wellbeing, and nearly two-thirds of people (63%) felt that protecting local green spaces should be a higher priority for the government when lockdown ends.

CPRE Gloucestershire is encouraged by the public’s enthusiasm for the countryside and would like to see people continue to enjoy local green spaces for social distance contact with friends and family, but urging those making use of such spaces to be prepared, take bags with you, bag up your rubbish when you’ve finished, and take it to the nearest bin or home with you (recycle where possible) and to leave the space how you found it.

Leaving rubbish behind not only spoils the countryside and green spaces, it is a serious threat to local wildlife as well as posing a potential virus spreading risk as other people inevitably will have to pick up the rubbish and dispose of it.”

We run projects, activities and campaigns all across the country to reduce litter, working with local partners and empowering communities to clean and celebrate their much-loved landscapes. Join us in making our countryside healthy, clean and tranquil.

Litter in Lockdown: a study of littering in the time of Coronavirus

CPRE released a report in December 2020 which recommended the Government:

  • Commits to a comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme, involving glass, plastics and metal drinks containers of all sizes, by the end of 2023, to reduce littering of these items.
  • Introduces a full Extended Producer Responsibility scheme by the end of 2023, to ensure producers bear the cost of cleaning up when their items are littered.
  • Uses a combination of taxes and charges to incentivise a reduction in single use items and packaging right across the supply chain.
  • Promotes the benefits of re-usable masks wherever possible, emphasising their safety, and encourages people to dispose of any single-use masks responsibly when these are used.
  • Supports the promotion of the Countryside Code, with its clear anti-littering guidance, through online advertising and engagement with schools.
  • Provides renewed commitment to the aims of the government’s 2017 Litter Strategy for different local groups, local authorities, Highways England and businesses to reduce litter through cooperation and collaboration.

Read the summary report

Green Clean Coordinators

Want to contribute to a cleaner countryside for everyone? We are currently recruiting Green Clean Coordinator volunteers.

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