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!