Rock hunters are turning their skills to a new pursuit – tackling East Cambridgeshire’s growing litter problem.
Fed up with mistaking muck for psychedelic stones, a growing number of rock collectors are combining the fun of finding rocks of art with a clamp down on trash.
Armed with bin bags and litter pickers, Karen Sheail and her family managed to fill an entire bin bag with bottles and cans for recycling and another with general waste – and even found a scooter dumped in a ditch, during a rock and rubbish hunt yesterday.
During their short trip they binned 10 bags of dog poo, dumped along Ely’s Cathedral View estate.
Karen told Spotted in Ely her family regularly picked up rubbish dumped along the estate while out and about but have amped the ante since joining the rock craze that’s sweeping the district.
“When rock hunting we keep thinking we’ve seen a rock – only to discover it’s rubbish.”
The litter problem seems to be getting worse, Karen says, adding that black bin bags often split or are ripped apart by foxes, spilling rubbish onto the ground, which remains uncleared.
“A lot of households have shared drives or places to put the bins which means that mess left after bin collection belongs to everyone or no one. This means it’s easy to say, ‘Oh it’s not mine, I’ll leave it’. Also recycling bins blow over, causing more rubbish to be drifting around.
“Also the age old problem of people just being lazy and not bothering to put stuff in the bin.”
Another problem is overflowing bins in play parks, she says.
“Then the wind gets up and there is rubbish everywhere.
“It’s something I think we should all do something about. I love my city, Ely and wish it to look as lovely as it can and be a nice place to live, so yes, I pick up rubbish. This is not the first tie we as a family have done a litter pick and it won’t be the last.”
Fellow rock and rubbish hunter Sarah Follett says the lack of rubbish bins along the Cathedral View estate don’t help.
Yesterday she and her son Lex collected beer cans and bottles dumped in the area.
“I think some of the rubbish problem would be solved by wheelie bins for household waste, rather than bags that get split/ripped and the rubbish gets left behind to blow around.”
Meanwhile Soham childminder Kathy Murray often collects recyclable rubbish, such as bottles and cans, on her school run.
During the 10 minute walk from St Andrew’s School to the library last week, she and some of the children she looks after collected an entire sack of rubbish.
Kathy plans to make her litter picks a weekly pursuit and already has plans to meet up with other families in Soham to address the issue.
“The boys already know their routes due to the amount of litter that is there!”
Ely mum Jayne Brennan collected three bags full of rubbish and recycling with her four and two-year-old boys yesterday.
“They’ve both always been really aware of the rubbish and ask why people drop it and not put it in the bin. There’s so much broken glass about at the moment.”
A regular visitor to the city, Susan Lake says she’s “really noticed an increase in litter on the verges approaching Ely since the leisure village appeared”.
Fleur Patten, who runs Spotted in Ely Rocks, says there should be more public bins in new housing areas and recycling bins in the centre of Ely. She wants public bins to be emptied more often and a longterm plan to tackle littering.
“Also, why are households putting bottles and cans in black bags? My opinion is that we don’t need a third enormous plastic bin, we need people to be encouraged/pressured to recycle as much as possible.”
She’s noticed lots of “logoed fast food litter” on the A10, close to the leisure village.
“Plastic kills wildlife on roadside verges…I think the companies would be horrified to see the impact of their presence on the A10. A long term plan has to be made. Why are people dropping their fast food litter yards away from the restaurant?”
Steve Smith, who manages the Burwell Co-op, is offering rockers rolls of bags for rubbish collections.
“We have litter collections in Burwell by the community by I’m more than happy to help where i can in Ely as I live here.”
Spencer Rollings, who manages Ely McDonalds, told Spotted in Ely the restaurant are proactively tackling litter but a lot of the problem comes down to a lack of education. He’s witnessed people chucking wrappers and cups out of car windows.
McDonalds employs a maintenance person who picks litter along the site, as well as around KFC, Costa and the surrounding area, between 6am and 3pm, from Monday to Friday. In addition a litter van, owned by a franchisee, occasionally visits the area to tackle the problem. The restaurant has eight bins on its property, in addition to other public bins at the Ely Leisure Village.
McDonalds regularly pick up rubbish left along the underpass and on the other side of the A10, not just on their property, Spencer says.
“A lot of the litter problem comes down to education. It’s not McDonalds who chuck the empty bottles out. We do our best.”
Spencer is planning to host a public litter picking session in the spring as part of McDonald’s “Love Where you Live” campaign. More details coming soon.