Littering epidemic in Epsom and Ewell parks

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is running a new campaign over the summer months due to the increases in littering and anti-social behaviour that have been seen since lockdown eased.

The campaign, developed by Keep Britain Tidy, comes after a new survey carried out by the environmental charity shows that more than half of the country’s parks have had to pull in extra resources to deal with the issues, including litter and anti-social behaviour since lockdown was eased.

Of those, 81% have had to spend more on clearing up litter, 79% on bin emptying and 72% on maintaining public order or enforcing lockdown rules. Councils also reported clearing up on average 57 tonnes of additional waste from their parks.

Councillor Barry Nash, Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Committee commented “Our largest parks, especially Nonsuch, have seen huge numbers descending on them and even our smallest parks like Elizabeth Welchman Gardens in central Epsom, have seen a marked increase in visits.

“Normally this use of the borough’s green spaces is something we are delighted to see; however, the levels of litter and waste being left by members of the public has reached unprecedented levels. Council staff with many years of experience working in parks, claim they have never known a period as bad as this.

“Thankfully, the community spirit of the army of local volunteers, who give up their time to undertake litter picks in our green spaces, along with our own street cleaning team and Park Rangers, have managed to keep the huge tide of litter from completely defiling one of the  borough’s greatest assets”.

The new campaign, under the umbrella of ‘Love Parks’, uses behavioural insights that show people respond better to messages from individuals and features images of real parks staff and park users, with quotes that talk about how anti-social behaviour makes them feel, with each one urging people to ‘be kind’ to their park.

Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “The UK was the birthplace of the public park and their value was recognised by many people during lockdown as a haven of greenspace, for exercise and relaxation.

“But, as lockdown measures have eased, we’ve seen a significant minority of people abuse these treasured spaces, with shocking scenes of anti-social behaviour, including littering, people using parks as toilets and abuse of parks staff.

“This campaign, which has been made available to every local authority in the country and which is based on behavioural science, will act as an effective nudge to actively encourage people to treat our beautiful parks – and the amazing staff who work in them – with respect this summer.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “As the coronavirus lockdown has eased, the amount of litter being left in parks, green spaces and beaches across the country is unacceptable. I wholeheartedly support Keep Britain Tidy’s new campaign to tackle this issue.

There is simply no excuse to leave rubbish behind, and councils can issue fines of up to £150 to those caught doing it. If you are unable to dispose of litter, then please take it home so you don’t destroy what you have come to enjoy.”

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