It was one year ago today that my lovely husband humoured me and we went on our first rubbish walk in Chippenham.
We were so unprepared. First, we only brought a few carrier bags with us, thinking that they would be enough for the short walk we had planned. They weren’t. It was the first inkling that I had perhaps underestimated the litter problem in Chippenham. Second, we never dreamed that they actually make hoops that are designed to keep bin bags open while picking; these were one of the best investments we made all year (shame it took about three months for us to discover them, but we got there in the end!). Finally, it was the reaction from the people we met that was quite a surprise. While many were appreciative, others seemed to hold on to a lot of misplaced anger, blaming the Council for the litter problem and not the litter louts themselves.
Back in these early days, we didn’t count the bags of rubbish or the recycling found, we simply disposed of it properly. However, as we started our regular walks, collecting the data became a key part of what we do, trying to quantify the amount of rubbish and recyclables that had been tossed aside. We’ve realised that it’s only through the collection of evidence that we are able to see the true scale of litter in this country, identify hotspots and possible perpetrators, and, as a result, begin to formulate potential solutions.
Looking back, the past year has been absolutely incredible. We’ve met MPs and other local dignitaries. We’ve been interviewed for the radio and one of Jon’s litter parodies made it on air. We’ve carried out six Community Clean Ups. We have a litter logging app in progress. We were highly commended in the recent Chippenham Area Board Community Awards.
But for me, personally, the best bit of the year has been the people I’ve met along the way. Online, it’s been wonderful to see the indomitable spirit of Bunty in action over at Rubbish Walks Woodbridge, and the growing tally of litter collected by Rubbish Walks Heybridge reveals the fantastic dedication to the cause.
Locally, it was meeting Beverly, my partner-in-grime, that really kicked Rubbish Walks into a higher gear and which has encouraged me to dream big for what we can accomplish and get Off the Ground in Chippenham. Likewise, Craig has stepped in and become a key part of ensuring our Community Clean Ups actually happen.
On the official side of things, local MP Michelle Donelan and candidates Duncan Hames and Tina Johnston were real troupers in attending our first Clean Up, and Mayor David Powell and councillor Teresa Hutton have been so supportive of our efforts. Adrian, Will, and Steve from Chippenham Town Council have provided invaluable help from the very start, and Melody Thompson deserves special recognition for her drive and desire to not only make Chippenham a cleaner town, but also for her welcome encouragement of our efforts. Carolyn and Amy from Chippenham BID have been great in making time for us, and, just this week, meeting Manuela Wahnon has shown one potential way forward for reaching local students.
From the community of Chippenham itself, there have been so many others who have been willing to step forward and say “Enough is enough!”: Simon. Steve and Jo. Margaret. Carol. Sarah. Rob. Steven and Matthew. Marcia and Dennis. Heather and her family. Liam, Louise, and Summer. Val. Philip. Austen. Barbara. Many apologies to anyone I’ve forgotten, but all of the Community Clean Up participants deserve special thanks for making this past year so rewarding.
It’s very easy to think that you are the only person bothered by something in your community, or think it’s a bit strange to be concerned by something that most others just walk past without a second glance. However, this year has shown how much can be accomplished when everyone works together for a common goal. So thank you all for your time, efforts, and good will – let’s see what the next year will bring!