How Croatia thrashed Croydon 3–0 in the litter-collecting World Cup

By - Wednesday 8th August, 2018

Matching up two different places in a litter-picking challenge

Photo author’s own.

Hot on the heels of the football World Cup and Croatia’s success in reaching the finals, Croydonians also found fame as a fantastic bunch of lively supporters when scenes of them showcasing the ‘Croydon Cheer’ at Boxpark were televised nationwide.

Now imagine this: having failed to secure city status after so many attempts, Croydon becomes bolder and instead secedes and becomes a fully fledged independent nation just like Pimlico did in the classic Ealing comedy, Passport To Pimlico. Keep imagining; as an independent nation, naturally Croydon competes on the international stage, and this month are up against Croatia in the litter-collecting World Cup! Now as much as I love Croydon, in this particular pairing, we Croydonians are getting absolutely walloped by the Croatians.

You’re now probably thinking, ‘what is this Citizen writing about?’ If you’re still reading, let me enlighten you. Over the weekend, I popped into Croydon town centre to do a spot of shopping. Whilst there, I realised Croydon Council’s Don’t Mess With Croydon campaign wasn’t getting through to everyone – not even to the council themselves. Okay, so the campaign is more about reducing fly-tipping, but ultimately it’s about keeping the borough cleaner.

Further down the street, a ‘big belly’ bin was overflowing with litter

On North End, outside Whitgift’s main entrance, there was a stand set up to answer residents’ queries on the council’s new waste collection and recycling policy. Further down the street outside Primark, a ‘big belly’ bin was overflowing with litter, not a pretty sight. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only one; there were similar scenes on High Street and Landsdowne Road, and no doubt, elsewhere in town.

I thought to myself, aren’t the ‘big belly’ bins meant to be ‘smart’ bins with microchips in them that notify the council when they’re nearly full so they can be emptied… to avoid these very scenes? Had I had more time that day, I’d have marched right back to that stand to tell them about the irony of all this, but instead my friend reported the unsightly mess using the new Don’t Mess With Croydon app.

A few days later I escaped the sweltering heat in Blighty for the even hotter climes of Croatia. Yes, I know, but when this was booked, it was still dull and grey and who knew what was coming our way weather-wise. Anyway, so now I’m in Croatia, as are thousands of other tourists; all wandering around drinking gallons of water from bottle after bottle made of plastic. As I went to throw away an empty bottle, I saw that they had the very same ‘big belly’ bins that we have. There was one big difference though – their bins weren’t full, rubbish was being placed inside them and not left strewn outside, polluting the streetscape. It’s now half-time, so let’s take a look at the score: Croatia 1–Croydon 0 in the litter-collecting World Cup.

A small army of men were cleaning up the marbled streets

Whilst in Dubrovnik, we walked on top of the historic city walls. During this time, down below on street level, a military-like operation was well underway, where a small army of men were systematically walking up and down the marbled myriad of streets emptying bins as they grew fuller and, at the same time, picking up any stray litter that had escaped the ‘big belly’s clutches; but believe me, there was very little for them to pick up.

When I recall my shopping trip to Croydon, I don’t remember seeing anything similar happening and if it was, I’m sorry to say they weren’t doing a very good job. Okay, so maybe the comparison isn’t fair – Dubrovnik’s old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so they need to keep it looking spick and span all the time for the millions who come to visit. Although having said that, Croydon may not attract nearly as many visitors – but it’s still a busy commercial and retail centre, so we need to ensure the environment and atmosphere is clean, green and safe for our visitors, otherwise they’ll not come back. So, if we put our rubbish in the bins and the council empties them before they’re full, this will make for a much more pleasant experience for everyone. However, in the meantime on this point, Croatia score another goal… meaning that so far in the second half, the score is, Croatia 2–Croydon 0.

We’re now in the 86th minute of normal time and unless some sort of miracle happens, we’ve got no chance of beating the Croatians now, but let’s see how the game plays out.

Photo author’s own.

Finally, not only were the streets in Croatia free of litter, they were actually clean, no chewing gum in sight, no grease marks, just the stone that the streets were paved with. I’m sure they’re not always like this nor everyone always that considerate – but the local authority obviously maintain a regular cleaning regime that ensures there is no grime to be seen.

Now, back to Blighty and that visit to Croydon town centre. I paused for a moment on the pedestrianised part of High Street, to watch two artists perform street acrobatics; they were amazing and the crowd that had gathered around looked equally impressed. All the available seats were taken so I decided to sit on the pavement – but soon reconsidered when I noticed these big, black grease stains trailing all the way down the pavement. I couldn’t work out what caused it but just wondered why our newish pavements were looking so grimy. I’m afraid that means it’s another one in the back of the net for Croatia. As we’re out of time, the final score stands at Croatia 3–Croydon 0.

Now, let’s return to the brilliant scenes at Boxpark when our fellow citizens displayed such great spirit and passion for the beautiful game and let’s use this passion to keep our hometown looking as nice as it can be. It’ll need all of us working together and with the council, but the good news is, it’ll take very little effort. So come on, if you’re not already, please join in and do more things like this:

  1. Throw your litter in a bin and if there isn’t one around, take it home with you. Remember, if it can be recycled, please place it in a recycling bin.
  2. If you see overflowing bins, unclean streets or any fly-tipping, don’t wait for someone else to report it report it to the council yourself using the ‘Don’t Mess With Croydon’ app. If we report things as soon as they become apparent, it can be dealt with much sooner. Don’t worry about something being reported twice, as I’m sure the council’s smart new app will use the GPS location footprint and ‘reason for report’ field to identify and deal with duplicate reports.

Croydon Council, listen here. It’s time for you to get your act together and clean up the streets. The ‘Don’t Mess With Croydon’ initiative and app are brilliant, but now it’s time for you to deliver on the basics.

I’m confident that this time next year, in our rematch with Croatia, not only will we put up a much stronger fight, it may even be a tie. Play your part; convert some of your enthusiasm and energy for the beautiful game into helping us to beautify our town.

Uday Shukla

Uday Shukla

Uday has lived in Croydon since 2004. He’s a senior digital product manager working in the financial services industry. In his spare time he enjoys going to the cinema and swimming and he’s passionate about architecture, travel and the National Trust.

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  • Ian

    The pics are very telling. I wonder if there’s a lot less fast food garbage in Dubrovnik? That’s not an excuse though. And as for the grime on Croydon’s pavements, I’ve never seen them being cleaned.

  • Charles Barber

    A great amusing article on a serious matter. I noticed the same difference in the cleanliness of the streets and parks in Kaliningrad, which I visited recently partly to watch some World Cup matches, as relayed in my recent Citizen article The Croydon / Kaliningrad Comparison. I fear Kaliningrad thrashed Croydon 5-0 in the crunch Litter Match. If other places can keep their cities clean, why can’t we?