‘Litter picking is fun and it’s good for your spirit’

Chances are, you’ll have seen them over the last few months rummaging about with their metal claws and rubber gloves. They’ll burst out of the undergrowth at the end of your street with a smile on their face and a bag of unpleasantness in their hands. As the pandemic recedes, the Sheffield Litter Pickers have been hard at work.

By David Bocking
Friday, 4th March 2022, 8:29 am

“What happens is, someone will post on the Facebook group: ‘This place is horrible, is anybody free?’ And then people pile in, and say: ‘Yes! I can do it!’”Linda Ball has been a Sheffield Litter Picker since the group’s inception with about five people in 2015.In the early stages of the pandemic, the streets were free of litter, because no shops were open and no-one was going out, she said.“And then we started to see coffee cups when you could come out and meet someone, and then after lockdown ended the fly tipping was horrendous as people had been clearing out their homes when they’d nothing else to do. But now we’re back to how it was before March 2020. There’s still plenty for us to do.”Last Sunday Linda and around a dozen residents from the Castle Croft estate in central Sheffield spent an hour collecting collecting over 16 bagfuls of rubbish around Granville Road.Around the city, from Shiregreen to Totley, at least another 25 groups of litter pickers were at work over the weekend. This year, Sheffield Litter Pickers voluntary groups have logged over 3,000 bags of collected rubbish on their group database, with 1,800 person hours of litter picking. Because many members are too busy collecting rubbish to fill out spreadsheets, the actual civic SLP effort is likely to be ten times as big, said Linda.“I come out with the group about once a month, for an hour,” said Steve Myers. “It upsets me to see so much litter around where we live, and I feel doing this can make a difference in the community in a small way, which can lead to a big difference if everyone pulls together.”“It’s good to look after the environment,” said four year old Poppy.“It’s also a social thing,” said Poppy’s mum Angela Diskin. “It means we can meet people and other kids from our estate.”“It’s actually alarmingly great fun,” said Liz Wade, after wading through ivy and brambles in the ‘green triangle,’ a small 50 metre wide wood between Granville and Claywood Roads where litter pickers say household rubbish has disappeared for generations. “I like tidying up, I’m dismayed about the amount of litter about and want to do something about it.”Linda was hoiking out drink cans and and MacDonalds litter nearby. “You can feel it crunching under your feet, thinking there’s maybe three feet of rubbish here,” she said. She listed the assorted napkins, sauce sachets, plastic cutlery and assorted superfluous packaging handed out at the takeaway down the road, much of which ends up in the green triangle, she said.“If their customers can’t think about it, maybe the retailer could do a bit of their thinking for them?”SLP members know the areas they clear up may be littered again in a month’s time, but the exercise is not pointless, says Linda. For her being out and being seen to care is the important thing. People have various reasons for dropping litter, she says, ranging from time and convenience to wanting to keep your car clean. “But I don’t think we should accept those reasons as excuses.”We’ve learned the importance of having a community to support us over the last two years, she said, along with the proven benefits of local green spaces, and the need to look after them.“We say it’s within your power as a citizen to do that. And it’s good for your spirit. You feel buoyed up, and you have fun. It’s not grim."There are now nearly 4,000 members of Sheffield Litter Pickers, she noted. “If there are enough of us, we might outnumber the people dropping litter.”See: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SheffieldLitterPickers

Sheffield Litter Pickers at work on Granville Road
Sheffield Litter Pickers: Linda Ball at the Cholera Monument

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Sheffield Litter Pickers at work near the Sheaf Valley Walk at Abbeydale with Tesco community volunteer team
Sheffield Litter Pickers: Freddie and dad Tomasz at Granville Road
Sheffield Litter Pickers at work near the Sheaf Valley Walk at Abbeydale with Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust
Sheffield Litter Pickers: Liz Wade emptying a can in the 'Green Triangle' off Granville Road