Thursday, 17 March 2011

Litter along the Water of Leith

A few days ago I blogged about the Water of Leith Conservation Trust stakeholder conference, which I was delighted to be able to attend as a regular volunteer of the trust. The topic of litter was one that people picked up on in the comments section on that post so I thought I'd say a bit more about that.

The Water of Leith is largely an urban river, passing right through the centre of Edinburgh, ending up at the docks in Leith, which is a very built up area. A fair amount of rubbish gets dumped into the river, some of it intentionally, some of it left behind when people have got drunk and left their beer cans and sandwich wrappers behind, some of it blows into the river from surrounding areas. Some people have developed the habit of bagging their dog's poo but then throwing the bag into the undergrowth or into a tree (which is a disgusting habit!). Some litter gets blown back along the river and walkway from the bins in the area. The council can only supply bins where they can get vehicle access to empty them which means that some stretches of the river don't have many bins.

The river is patrolled by a team of volunteers, who go out once a week, by themselves to look after a specific area of the river. We record wildlife, cut back overgrown vegetation, pick litter and report on major pollution or littering incidents. I usually fill a large carrier bag with litter each week, in the summer it will often be about two large carrier bags. I only pick litter that I can pick without endangering myself - so I don't climb trees, jump into the river or clamber up or down steep slopes.

Around once a month (more in the summer, less in the winter) a volunteer clean-up team takes a length of river which is blighted by litter and spends 2-3 hours in the river and on its banks, filling up a skip with all manner of litter and often some large or strange objects. Many of the clean ups are done by groups from local businesses or community groups. Each year a trophy is awarded to the community group that finds the most unusual item of rubbish, the trophy itself is made from a Victorian figurine that was found in the river!

16 comments:

Dave King said...

The so-called Big Society in action? Fascinating stuff - until the politicians bag it for themselves and their own purposes. Make sure they don't.

FARfetched said...

Amazing how people will treat the world as their personal trash can. I try to remember taking some bags with me on walks around my house so I can pick up things that people throw out. The road crews mow right over the trash, chopping it into little pieces and throwing it everywhere, so it's best to get it before the mowers do.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Each year my CHAOS Productions pirates do the New York State Canal Sweep clean up ridding the canal and waterway of garrrrrrr-bage.

We get a lot of waves from people amused to see pirates picking up trash.....but so far no one has stopped to help.

It is heartbreaking what we find.

Dartford Warbler said...

We have a similar problem in the New Forest. Every time I walk the dogs I seem to come home with cans and bottles.

Marvin said...

Litter can be such a depressing problem. I mean, how can we possibly solve larger problems when we can't even convince people to dispose of their trash properly?

Kay said...

every spring I have to clean litter from our irrigation ditch on our property. People up stream country club are the first on the ditch and they allow their trash to come downstream. I really hate cleaning up after others. I do it but it makes me mad! In Ohio you could be fined severely for littering..in Utah I see people throw things onto the road. People have been killed by running into trash on the freeways! Good for you for your stewardship of the river.

sandy said...

It is the same here. We have a store down the street. People have just enough time to scratch their lottery tickets before they pass. I pick up 15 or 20 every week.

As soon as the snow goes, I will go out and clean up the winter's accumulation of trash. Other neighbors do the street sides. The same folks every year.

Glo said...

It really is difficult to know why people choose to litter, and as you say there are many sources of it. There is a fine for littering here but I don't know if or how often it is put into effect. Stewardship of the environment is taught in schools here ~ which is especially important since we live in an area where pollution can affect the rivers and sea first hand. Hopefully educating individuals will help! Good to know that you have a system working over there to help the environment of the Water of Leith.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Just gotta keep on picking up and preaching and making it very easy to recycle and very costly to litter! In Washington State survey after survey has shown that the fear of a fine is the main thing that keeps people from littering - the MINIMUM fine is $100! (Not a whole lot of enforcement happens, but enough!)

gabriellebryden said...

Good to see the trophy is recycled - haha - I agree with Marvin - we can't even stop people littering!

Titus said...

Litter is one of the things that gets me quite unreasonably angry. Well done to you and all who volunteer.

Sandy's witterings said...

Oh Juliet! you tease us with the knowledge that people find curious things in the Water of Leith. Go on, tell us about some.

Lucy said...

It always surprises me how comparatively little litter you see here, when the French really are the most terrible slobs in other ways.

But what astonishes me is that people bother to carry bags, pick up their dog poo, then chuck the bags away! It would be better to let the poo decompose naturally than that. Are there not any dog poo bins or something? Are there any litter bins anyway? I can understand in natural places they can be a problem.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Lucy - yes it would be better to let the dog go away from the path and let the poo decompose, there are bins but not all along the walkway (due to access problems for bin lorries), and people are obviously too lazy to carry the bags. it's a big problem in all the green spaces in edinburgh and other places in the UK

Crafty Green Poet said...

Farfetched - how typical of today's majority way of thinking that the road crews mow right over the trash rather than removing it!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Mimi - good for you and the pirates doing the litterpick, sorry no-one stops to help!