Big Clean Up 5 reaches new heights and new places but reveals the scale of old problems


Tower Hamlets is doing its bit to help the environment

The fifth week-long Big Clean Up run by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has underlined the real scale of the litter problem that affects not only the local community but also the global one.

Over 11 events a grand total of 140 volunteers collected 97 large bags of litter from the land, 25 buckets from waterways and a variety of larger items including traffic cones, mailing boxes, furniture, drainpipes, suitcases, footballs and railings. Volunteers included 46 children as well as Tower Hamlets residents, representatives from 15 organisations, councillors, council staff and Mayor John Biggs.

This fifth campaign week saw a new focus on ‘micro-rubbish’ - the small items such as cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and tickets. With so much plastic used in the production of countless items, much of this ‘micro rubbish’ will never biodegrade. This makes the effort of partners and individuals who voluntarily contributed to remove these smaller items from polluting our surroundings so valuable.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, reflected on the week long campaign, and said:

“With an ever increasing global focus on the tipping points towards a climate crisis, it is key we all do our bit. The Big Clean Up events have shown off the best of our borough; from the enthusiasm of volunteers (many of whom were small children) to the amazing range of places in Tower Hamlets. Litter is a problem that can be easily tackled, by simply bringing together like-minded people. However, it is a problem that exists because of the seemingly casual attitude we have towards waste as a society, and the thoughtless actions of a minority who use our amazing spaces like a dumping ground.”

A range of locations received The Big Clean Up treatment, picked from nominations received from residents. From one of the earliest social housing estates (Boundary Gardens) to the waterways of Canary Wharf and Mile End, parks, streets, thorough-fares, industrial areas and quieter residential streets all received a little extra love and care from volunteers to show off the vibrancy of the borough and its residents.  

15 organisations worked with Tower Hamlets Council on Big Clean Up events, including: London Legacy Development Corporation; St Edmund’s Roman Catholic Primary School; The Canary Wharf Group; The Canal & River Trust; Hubbub; Moo Canoes; The 8th East London Scout Group; Queen Mary University of London Students’ Union; Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park; Nature and Us; The GoodGym Tower Hamlets; Veolia; Tower Hamlets Homes; The Aldgate Partnership; and CleanupUK.

Michelle Lindson from Nature and Us commented:

“Nature and Us is a community cohesion project by the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, and we got involved with the Big Clean Up in Swedenborg Gardens because it’s a park where we hold a lot of our nature focused events. Swedenborg Gardens has so much potential and we want to help it become a hub for the local community. It was so rewarding to see the immediate effects that just an hour of litter picking can have!”

7,000km of streets are cleaned every week within the fastest growing borough in the UK. With over 300,000 resident in, and thousands more travelling through, litter is an inevitable issue.

However, almost 7,000 tonnes of litter was collected last year (meaning on average one tonne is collected per km of street) at a cost of nearly £6 million.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs added:

“The cost of clearing up litter could be spent on valuable services elsewhere. The fact that so much of what was collected over The Big Clean Up week was ‘micro rubbish’ underlines how casual the attitude to litter has become. Litter and waste affects us all. Having just finished a consultation on waste management in the borough, the results of this Big Clean Up week underline how we now have to consider new ways of reducing waste alongside shifting perceptions that it’s acceptable to drop litter in Tower Hamlets.”

Cllr David Edgar, Cabinet Member for Environment, summed up:

“There is a lot of civic pride held by the residents and organisations in Tower Hamlets, so it is great to see it channelled into keeping our streets clean and free of litter. The reception by local communities and participants has been really positive, with many volunteers reporting being thanked by residents for their efforts. The Big Clean Up not only helps tidy up but spreads the word that litter is a problem that we can all contribute towards solving."

Posted on Tuesday 9th October 2018