With fewer visitors to the countryside in the time of Covid, it was hoped that there would be an equivalent reduction in the amount of roadside litter. In a remote part of the Dorset AONB, Hilton and Ansty’s Parish Tidy in mid-March sadly proved this not to be the case and the usual lorry load was accumulated by diligent pickers over the course of a weekend.
In normal times, the annual Litter Pick is a great community event taking place on a Saturday morning followed by a BBQ lunch. This year, Covid meant that the event had to be socially distanced so about fifty volunteers were each allocated a stretch of road to be picked at a time convenient to them over the weekend, within their social bubble. Litter grabbers, hi-viz, gloves and bags were collected and the rubbish either left at the roadside to be picked up or returned to the central point. Despite the lack of lunch, everyone felt a sense of satisfaction in contributing to the effort and at the same time, the parish finger sign posts were given their annual scrub and now look as good as new. Dorset Waste Partnership provided all the equipment and the enormous pile of rubbish was collected on Monday morning by their team.
Around the same time a volunteer group did an amazing job in clearing the Blandford by-pass. Dorset Highways’ stated aim is to pick the major roads twice a year but this has been delayed in 2021 and some of the arterial routes, such as the A31 near Ferndown have been in a terrible state with polythene and other detritus covering the verges. Obviously it is too dangerous for volunteers to work on fast roads but perhaps a group such as Extinction Rebellion could divert some of their energies into roadside cleansing. If roads had to be closed periodically for litter picking, the ensuing inconvenience would help to educate those who routinely chuck rubbish out of their vehicles and eventually promote a change of attitude nationally.
Why should volunteers have to pick up other people’s litter and why must Dorset Highways waste money on roadside cleansing, never mind the danger to life and limb. It is difficult to understand the mentality of the casual litterer but perhaps the problem stems from the Festival culture where the young routinely abandon rubbish, including tents, in the belief that someone will tidy up, but it is not just the young who litter. Whilst large Festival organisers may pay people to clean up, this, of course, does not happen in real life on the roads and country lanes of Dorset.
Citizens who think it is acceptable to litter should take pride in their environment and take their rubbish home!
Catherine Langham, North Dorset CPRE