Meet the litter picking pals

Two smiling woman standing next to a road in Bristol

Meet litter picking pals Sam Masson and Di Baker

We all know how much good you can do for your local environment when you get out the litter sticks. But picking up litter can also make you feel great, say North Bristol litter picking volunteers Sam and Di.

When Brentry resident Sam Masson found that the litter in her area was getting her down, she realised she would have to do something about it.

What can I do?

Sam had never considered going litter picking until this point, but then she questioned why the idea hadn’t occurred to her.
“Why have I walked past litter?” Sam asked herself. “Because I don’t want to pick it up and get germs? Or I don’t want to pick up after someone else? Or the Council will pick it up?”.

Then I keep seeing litter every day and it’s making me miserable, so I start to pick it up and put it in the bin, and it went from there.

What can we do?

In October 2016 Sam posted a call for help locally on the Litter Action website and then on the Next Door website. There was some interest online, but only Di Baker from Westbury-on-Trym answered her call to meet up and go out for a litter pick.

Di says, “It can be really difficult to engage people to get involved in a group, but there are quite a few people like us who quietly go around in their everyday life picking up litter in the area”.

The two women motivate each other to get out – sometimes together, but also on their own.

When can we do it?

Sam will litter pick on her commute. She packs a box of disposable gloves in her work bag. “I might have clocked the litter when I came back from work the previous day”, she says.

“Then I’ll grab a plastic bag – perhaps one from when we’ve had something delivered so that I’m reusing it. I just put the glove in with the rubbish in the bin at the bus stop on my way to work”.

Di, who is retired, does it on her regular walking routes or as a dedicated litter pick. She admits to being a “fair-weather litter picker. Whereas Sam goes out in the howling rain and gale”.

“Only if I’ve advertised an event and made a commitment” Sam admits. “So I’ll go out regardless of the weather”.

Litter picking makes both women feel good and has helped a friendship blossom – like the daffodils on Passage Road, that runs between Brentry and Westbury, part of Di’s regular route.

“On a nice day it makes you feel very satisfied”, says Di. “Clearing all that rubbish from around the daffodils. They’re really beautiful and I’d rather that they weren’t drowned in rubbish.”

Changing mindsets

Sam and Di acknowledge that keeping the streets clean may not be important for everyone.

“Understandably, we’re all embroiled in life” said Sam. “Getting up, getting the kids ready, going to work, working out what’s for tea. Out of the car come all the kids and then the litter. Parents are in a rush. You can understand why it’s not always a priority”.

Di adds, “It’s all very well people like us picking the litter up, but what needs to happen is that people stop dropping it in the first place. That’s where people need to be educated. I think it has to happen in schools and also parents should be teaching their kids not to drop litter”.

Sam says that young people need to be taught the consequences of not putting litter in the bin. Not only the damage to the environment but “the damage to themselves with regards to resources.

“Because our councils are then spending money on putting something right that shouldn’t be done in the first place, taking money away from other resources like libraries, for example.”

How to get involved

If you want to roll your sleeves up and do something about litter in your part of Bristol, we can supply you with all the kit, including litter picking sticks, high vis and bags.

You can also join thousands all across the country on March 2018 and do a community litter pick for the Great Bristol Spring Clean, part of a national weekend of litter picks organised by Keep Britain Tidy.

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