Last year, over 2800 volunteers across the borough mobilised to help clear litter, leaves and large rubbish from Croydon’s streets, pavements and parks.
In just a year, the council’s army of dedicated Street Champions grew by over 100, totalling 654 as of 31 December.
These volunteers were joined by individuals and groups from all walks of life, coming together to participate in neighbourhood street tidies, park picks, and national events such as the Great British Spring Clean.
Faith groups, ‘Friends of Parks’ groups, local Business Improvement Districts, independent businesses, pupils and so many more scheduled litter-picking events in their neighbourhoods.
During lockdown, litter-picking was permitted, however events were restricted to smaller groups, in line with Covid-19 safety guidance. Despite this, volunteers still managed to clear 1490 bags during this period (1 January – 12 April 2021).
Pictured: Volunteers with Friends of South Croydon Rec (left) and Purley BID (right) collect litter in 2021
Many volunteers find it fosters a sense of community and belonging, and can be a great way to meet new friends. Others talk about the importance of reducing the impact on the environment as we face a climate emergency, and the significance of giving back to the community.
Street Champions and neighbours Christina Peskett and her husband, along with neighbours John Collis and Julie Gierus from South Norwood collected a colossal total of 1686 bags of litter between them in 2021.
Christina said: “We all litter pick because we find litter offensive and unsightly, and struggle to understand why people have no respect for their surroundings. I constantly find myself asking “Why drop litter when there’s a litter bin within a few steps?”
“I think we all find litter-picking quite therapeutic, there’s definitely a sense of job satisfaction involved, and it allows us to get a bit of exercise whilst doing something positive for our environment”.
Also in South Norwood, the Love Lane Green community garden continued to thrive last year, as local street champions worked to maintain the beautiful public space they brought to life in 2016.
Emma Hope-Fitch, an organiser with the Love Lane Project said: “Becoming a street champion has kept me in touch with those that want to make a change for the better. Several of us meet regularly to continue maintaining the site that we rescued from under the rubbish, and with continued support from the council we’re able to improve and maintain our surroundings.”
Pictured: Love Lane Green volunteers cleaning the new community space
Fly tipping and littering can lead to serious safety hazards, and the council has a zero tolerance policy on this behaviour. Littering and fly tipping is an offense, and the council prosecutes individuals and businesses where necessary.
Litter audits are regularly carried out to deal with known hotspots – additional bins and larger-capacity bins have been put in place following these audits.
Street cleansing teams with our contractor Veolia, respond to complaints as they come in, on top their regular rounds. In Croydon, hundreds of miles of highway is cleansed and swept weekly, while staff respond to approximately 2000 fly tips of varying size each month.
Residents are encouraged to report fly tipping through the Love Clean Streets App.
“Keeping streets clean from litter makes them more attractive places to walk, and makes our high streets more attractive places to shop.
On behalf of the council and our residents, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to our incredible Street Champions and volunteers who have worked so hard this year, and given so much time and energy. I encourage anyone who has considered getting involved to sign up right now – it’s so simple and rewarding.
To the minority that continue to litter and fly tip: We will name and shame anyone prosecuted for fly-tipping in Croydon. Our enforcement patrols will continue to target litter hotspots, and if there is a pattern of fly-tipping in an area, we will catch those responsible. We urge you to make a resolution to do better this year and be a part of the solution – taking pride in Croydon means being responsible for the waste you create, and respecting the natural environment.”
Councillor Muhammad Ali, cabinet member for sustainable Croydon
To organise a litter-picking event, or become a Street Champion, contact firstname.lastname@example.org