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This summer as last has seen more use of parks, as people stay at home rather than take holidays abroad. It’s also meant more crime and misuse of parks, besides the misbehaviour in parklands that happened before the covid pandemic.
In Middlesbrough, pre-teenage children on a litter pick filled 24 bags of rubbish, and rounded up a dumped shopping trolley and a discarded chair at Spencerbeck Beck. At Sandwell Valley in the West Midlands, parkland staff have complained of people littering green spaces despite unfilled litter bins well within walking distance. Separately, Sandwell Council is proposing to make a new borough-wide public space protection order (PSPO) and make it “an offence for any person, when requested by an authorised officer, not to surrender any nitrous oxide canisters.” The council says that litter from discarded nitrous oxide canisters is a borough-wide problem on streets and open spaces and poses risks to children, and to council employees when the canisters get entangled in grass-cutting machinery.
It’s not a new problem; last summer, the charity Keep Britain Tidy and its Centre for Social Innovation launched a campaign under the umbrella of ‘Love Parks’, having found from a survey of councils that most were having to spend more on clearing up litter, bin emptying and maintaining public order or enforcing lockdown rules.
Councils point out that littering – food, wrappers, bottles and cans – not only puts wildlife at risk, but encourages vermin. Some park users are defying just about every rule you can think of – in Sutton in south London, use of football pitches without booking and payment, flying model aircraft outside the permitted hours, besides the more common dog fouling and dogs not under control (also something typically subject to a PSPO). Sutton Council has awarded an enforcement officer contract on a cost-neutral basis to Waste Investigations Support & Enforcement (WISE) – a specialist supplier of environmental crime and parking services to councils, whereby the contractor isn’t paid, but takes income from fines it issues to offenders. WISE have partnered with First Parking to deliver the parking enforcement part of the contract.
Councillor Manuel Abellan, Chair of Sutton’s Environment & Sustainable Transport Committee said: “Fly-tipping, littering and dog mess is a real frustration for our residents. Working with WISE, their dedicated environmental crime officers will now be out there issuing on the spot fines to those who are caught in the act or being traced back to them when items are found tipped.”
People are misusing open spaces not only in towns and cities. In Scotland, Highland Council says Seasonal Access Rangers and Waste Services staff will carry out patrols. Increased litter bin collections are in place; road signage and parking facilities have been improved, and extra public toilets. The council is running a ‘Bag It, Bin It’ summer campaign against human waste in the countryside.
Separately, Zero Waste Scotland, with the Scottish Government and Keep Scotland Beautiful, and the Highland Council is running a ‘Scotland is Stunning – Let’s Keep It That Way‘ litter prevention campaign. Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We are asking anyone visiting Aviemore to plan ahead before setting off. Pack a bag for rubbish, bring reusable containers and cutlery, and please bin your litter or take it home to dispose of.”