The community bands together to stop Croydon’s litter epidemic


By - Wednesday 4th May, 2016

Max Shirley explores how the community is coming together to combat litter


Photo by Josi Kiss, used with permission.

Saturday 23rd April saw the first meeting of the community campaign for a cleaner, greener and more beautiful Croydon. The campaign was originally announced in mid-March; founded by Citizen contributor Charles Barber, it sets out to make Croydon a more environmentally friendly and appealing place to reside. It was well attended by citizens from all over the borough wanting to contribute their views and stories that, in turn, led to a productive and interesting meeting.

After introductions the afternoon’s agenda got under way. Councillor Stuart Collins started by outlining the council’s own campaign, ‘Don’t Mess with Croydon: Take Pride‘. He spoke about the two aims of the campaign: education and enforcement. Councllor Collins also informed us of Tom Lawrence, who recently began monitoring Veolia’s efforts. It has since been established that streets are now photographed before and after cleaning, to illustrate how much work has taken place. Tracey Bellamy, Croydon Council’s community champions co-ordinator, was also on hand to tell the committee about Croydon’s clean and green champions – a network of volunteers who act to improve the environment in their local area.

The evening progressed with attendees talking about their own personal experiences surrounding the failure of bin collection, fly-tips, and general littering. With each anecdote more light was shed on the situation in Croydon, helping to show how committed everyone is to this cause. The sheer number of participants was advantageous: everyone had different experiences, allowing those present to view environmental problems in flats as well as in areas such as private railway land. Hotspots for fly-tips were pinpointed, and conclusions made surrounding why certain areas more likely to be rubbish sites. During this part of the session a good point was raised: as shops begin to neglect their own rubbish bins, placing their waste on the street, residents follow suit as they believe that spot to now be a viable dumping ground – not helping Croydon’s situation.

Photo by Josi Kiss, used with permission.

The aims of the campaign had been clearly set out, most were geared towards preventing litter in all forms. Everyone agreed with the aims leading the discussion to focus on how to accomplish what was wanted.

A starting point was the use of CCTV cameras – this idea wasn’t widely liked. The point was made that it can be difficult to identify criminals, and that this method would require the offender to step into the camera’s line of vision. It was determined that dud-cameras serve little use. It is possible for ‘stakeouts’ to take place at said hotspots. Dermot Linehan, head of NEOs (neighbourhood enforcement officers), raised a good point that officers would have to sit in unmarked cars waiting for something that may never happen – showing flaws in the plan. Solutions had to be cost effective; Councillor Collins pointed out that posters weren’t cutting it.

Gaps in fences and metal gates have always been the site of rubbish tips. When walking down alleyways some people resort to throwing their cans of drink through the divides. One attendee queried whether bamboo fencing, and the like, could be used to stop such acts being committed. Though it would be expensive for large areas of land to be fenced, and it is impossible for the council to instruct private owners to do the same, this was a starting point.

From pictures we have all seen that mattresses are items that are consistently fly-tipped. It was suggested that literature should be created, informing citizens how to remove any unwanted furniture. Another proposed idea was for the council to speak to stores such as DFS in Valley Park and to ask them to speak to customers about how to dispose of their sofas, mattresses, et cetera.

Attitudes changed throughout the meeting as more economically viable, and previously successful, ideas came to light. Attendees rightly indicated that people do not want to deface aesthetically pleasing areas. Murals and anti-fly-tip artwork would definitely discourage litterers – this is always a cost-effective resolution to Croydon’s litter problem. From this moment onward solutions began appearing left-right-and-centre. Edible bus stops: the concept in which you plant-up a bus stop and allow people to come and take its comestibles, for example.

Photo by Josi Kiss, used with permission.

The meeting ended on a high. Everybody was able to speak their mind and discuss innovative solutions to Croydon’s litter problem. Councillor Stuart Collins and his team were now readied with new ideas to approach the council with, and possibly to implement.

Thanks goes to all those who were able to attend, contribute to the conversations, and form some truly admirable concepts. Special thanks goes to those representing separate campaign or institution, as well as to Stuart Collins, Dermot Linehan and Tracey Bellamy, who were able to answer any questions we had surrounding current efforts that the council is making to combat the nationwide litter problem.


A further meeting will be taking place in September with Veolia and Councillor Collins. A Facebook page has recently been set up, it will be updated with all upcoming events. The campaign for a cleaner, greener and more beautiful Croydon will also have its own stall at Croydon’s Environmental Fair, Wandle Park, 11th June. 

Max Shirley

Max Shirley

Max is a student at Royal Russell, a local independent school. He started writing at the age of 11 for the school paper and has made his way to Editor-in-Chief. He has a strong interest in both local and global affairs, and also technology. Max aspires to be a writer when he leaves school. Twitter: @max_shirley_

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  • http://www.thegreenstoryteller.com Charles Barber

    Thanks Max for taking the notes and writing the article. Since the meeting, it has been brought to my attention that Croydon has lost a lot of its street trees in the last few years, and I’d be interested to know of any trees that have been removed and not replaced, and also of streets and communities that would like to have trees on their streets. If you can help in any way with this survey, please email Charles at .