How lockdown drove more people to the countryside… and produced more litter

Volunteers display discarded tins and bottles picked up at Graveney during a CPRE Green Clean

It can’t come as a surprise to anyone who loves the countryside that one of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a shocking increase in litter.
More than a third of adults in England (38 per cent) have seen more litter near to where they live since the start of the pandemic and more than three-quarters (76 per cent) have noticed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) being littered, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity.
Four in five people (78 per cent) would like to see the government take more action to tackle the scourge of litter. CPRE is therefore calling on the government not to delay and stick to its original timetable for a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme to reduce waste and litter and boost recycling.
CPRE has highlighted the poll’s three main findings:
•          The pandemic has shone a light on our throwaway culture and England’s broken waste and litter system
•          The government needs to do far more to tackle litter and support local authorities to create comprehensive refuse and recycling systems
•          This includes tackling PPE littering by promoting the benefits of reusable masks where possible and encouraging people to dispose of any single-use masks responsibly

Commenting on the findings, Isla Lester, nine-year-old anti-litter advocate and CPRE Green Clean participant, said:
“I think more people should litter-pick and think before they act, so the world can be much cleaner, much faster. This could be tackled in two ways: educationally and practically.
“It would be good if environmental issues were part of school lessons. Children need to be shown what polluting our planet really does. We need to see it for ourselves by going outside – having trips to the sea to look at the impact that litter has on beaches and sea life, and then doing things like litter-picking.
“I think local businesses should also help by putting things in place to not add to waste in their areas but to get rid of it.
“I just want more people to follow me and make the world a better place. We need everybody to work as a team to make a difference.”
During the pandemic, litter rates have risen in many areas across England. Ever-present wrappers, cartons, bottles and cups have been joined by plastic gloves and facemasks, all building up in our countryside. Litter has been a major problem for decades, but lockdown has led to new types and unprecedented levels in different places.
This was reflected in the YouGov poll, which questioned almost 2,000 respondents (1,964) across England on their perceptions of changes in litter since March 2020:
•          More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents noticed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) litter since the start of lockdown, with almost half (48 per cent) noticing a lot more
•          More than one in three people (38 per cent) noticed more litter near to where they lived since the start of lockdown, while a third (34 per cent) noticed about the same amount of litter 
•          A total of 39 per cent of respondents noticed more flytipping since the start of lockdown
•          Just over three-quarters of the English public (78 per cent) agreed that the government should be taking more action to tackle litter, including a third (33 per cent) who strongly agreed government should be doing more

 Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Litter is a completely avoidable blight that currently scars our countryside. As more people than ever before venture into their local green space or countryside next door, it’s crucial that the government redoubles efforts to tackle litter and stops it pilling up in our beautiful countryside.
“That’s why ministers must follow through on pledges to tackle the scourge of litter. By investing in whole-system solutions to address litter, including a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme, we can deal with the long-lasting problem once and for all.
“That means no more delays on a fully inclusive Deposit Return Scheme, which should be introduced by 2023 at the latest. Hugely successful in other European countries, these schemes are proven to help drive unprecedented recycling rates and ensure thousands of tonnes of litter don’t end up in the countryside.
“We need a waste system that is responsive to changes in behaviour. Our current system has been failing for a long time – the pandemic simply put a spotlight on the waste crisis and it’s high time ministers stepped in.”
Alongside the poll, CPRE has launched Litter in lockdown, a study looking at trends in litter and waste since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. It was launched at an online event attended by environment minister Rebecca Pow MP; Cat Chapman, co-author of the Litter in Lockdown study; Feryal Clark MP, member of the Environmental Audit Committee; and Isla Lester.
On the back of a wave of public support, the government set out plans for how it would better deal with resources and waste in 2018. Over two years later, these plans continue to be delayed further following pressure from drinks manufacturers, among others. The poll reveals a delay would be against public opinion and there is a large appetite for government and business action. Three in five adults (60 per cent) agree that organisations that produce single-use items should do more to ensure they are disposed of in the right way.
The poll also revealed stark changes in where the public were spending their time in light of Covid-19-related regulations and the Litter in Lockdown study shows that where people go, litter follows. Findings included:
•          One in three adults (34 per cent) reported spending more time in the countryside since the start of lockdown
•          One in three adults (32 per cent) had spent more time in parks and this rose to 44 per cent for those with children under the age of four
•          Three-quarters of the public (75 per cent) spent less time in inner-city high streets and 69 per cent spent less time in local high streets, showing a substantial shift in where people spent their time

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Protect our green spaces, government is urged in lockdown survey

The countryside in north-west Kent lies close to large centres of population… has its value ever been greater?

Despite us living under the strictest social-distancing measures we’ve ever experienced in the UK, there has been an increase in community spirit and appreciation for local green spaces and countryside during lockdown, according to new research.
Commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity, and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (WI), and carried out by Opinium, the poll has found that more than half (54 per cent) agree that people are doing more to help their communities and almost two-thirds of people (63 per cent) feel that protecting local green spaces should be a higher priority for the government when lockdown ends.
The results show local green spaces have been a haven for many people since lockdown measures began, with:

  • The majority (53 per cent) of people saying they appreciate local green spaces more since the country adopted social-distancing measures
  • More than half (57 per cent) of us reported that the lockdown has made us more aware of the importance of these local green spaces for our mental health and well-being
  • One in three people (35 per cent) reported visiting green spaces more since the start of lockdown

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Our countryside and local green spaces are facing mounting pressure, but the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us why the countryside next door, including our Green Belts, is so important to ordinary people.
“More people are aware of the health and well-being benefits that access to green spaces delivers and support for protecting and enhancing these after lockdown is impossible for the government to ignore.
“Going back to business as usual is not an option. The government must use the forthcoming planning reforms to protect these precious spaces and also go further by investing in their enhancement.
“Many of us feared that lockdown would see more people isolated, lonely and cut off from their communities and the outside world. However, these results have turned these notions on their head.
“While we are physically distanced, many of us are more connected than ever and people are helping each other in their communities – with different age groups connecting more – which is truly inspiring to see.”
It is clear that some of the high-profile volunteering and fundraising initiatives are not isolated acts of kindness and community spirit. The poll has also uncovered an outpouring of community spirit and feeling of togetherness, revealing that:

  • Only 11 per cent of us feel less connected to our community at this time – 40 per cent feel more connected and 42 per cent just as connected as before
  • More than half (54 per cent) of us agree that people are doing more to help their community under lockdown
  • Two in five people (42 per cent) are communicating more with people in their local community and one in six people (19 per cent) communicating at least twice as much with their neighbours as before
  • The top five ways in which we’re connecting more under lockdown are:
    • ‘Clap for the NHS’ on a Thursday evening (49 per cent)
    • Saying hello at the front door (37 per cent)
    • Social media (36 per cent)
    • Phone calls (33 per cent)
    • Seeing people in person and at a safe distance in communal spaces like parks (29 per cent)

Intergenerational connections have also been impacted:

  • Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of people report they have made new connections with different age groups in their local community
  • One in three (33 per cent) 18- to 34-year-olds say they have made new intergenerational connections
  • For all those who have made these new connections, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) are optimistic these new relationships will continue once lockdown is over.

Lynne Stubbings, chair, National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said: “It is wonderful to see how communities have become more connected in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is clear that we are cherishing our local communities now more than ever – by supporting our neighbours and those who are vulnerable, and getting out in the fresh air at our local green spaces.
“The WI has always thrived through difficult times and for over one hundred years it has remained at the heart of its communities, supporting those in need – and today’s lockdown is no different.
“WI members across the country have stepped forward to help others throughout the crisis – whether by arranging free book deliveries, sewing for the NHS, supporting food banks, or creating craft kits for families home-schooling their children.
“It is these acts of kindness and solidarity which have spread positivity, alleviated loneliness and lifted people’s spirits through what has been an incredibly challenging time.
“Throughout this crisis, green spaces have also been a lifeline to people dealing with the impact of lockdown. So many of us have discovered pockets of green right on our doorsteps – a chance to get out in the fresh air, exercise and support our mental well-being, which has been an oasis in difficult times. Yet too many of these places are threatened – by pollution, litter or the impacts of climate change.
“As we look to rebuild after the crisis, we must make sure that we continue to cherish our communities and this new sense of connectedness – both to each other and to our local environment.”

Monday, May 18, 2020