Salute Croydon’s clean and green champions, but more must be done


By - Tuesday 16th February, 2016

Max Shirley salutes the work done to end fly-tipping and clean up Croydon but asks: why isn’t it working?


Our town centre can be pretty abysmal, with cigarette butts, chewing gum and litter on the ground, and the lack of central green spaces and colourful buildings lowering the overall mood. The underpass that runs adjacent to Fairfield Halls has been littered with profanity in the form of graffiti. The first impression of our town centre is too often an urban mess. Should we not take pride in our town and help to make our borough greener?

In 2012/2013 Croydon Council spent £300,000 on clearing fly-tips, and a reported total of 15,111 sites were cleaned throughout 2013/2014. In June 2014 this sparked the creation of the Don’t Mess With Croydon campaign, seeking to prevent environmental crimes and apprehend those responsible. Fly-tipping, as well as other forms of littering, are illegal and need to be stopped.

The council statement runs: “Issues such as fly-tipping have a negative effect on people’s quality of life. Those who dump rubbish in our streets affect everyone in the community; it is not enough to simply remove the fly-tips once reported but to ensure that we are taking strong action”.

Croydon has set up a hall of littering shame

The magistrates’ court has the power to fine anyone up to £50,000 and/or award them a prison sentence of up to twelve months for an array of offences, from illegally disposing of household waste to dropping cigarette butts. Since the formation of the campaign, over 800 fixed penalties have been issued by the council, with some fly-tippers even prosecuted through the courts, including a man who was jailed for six months after dumping forty-two tonnes of waste in Waddon.

On the campaign page a hall of shame has been set up, which outlines and draws attention to the crimes of fifty-six separate people. This is a effective method that discourages citizens from strewing mess, in order to avoid being publicly shamed. You can read further fly-tipping statistics here, along with details of some of the action taken to combat the problem, in coverage by the Citizen’s own Robert Ward.

Lately council officers have been clamping and seizing vehicles that are known to have illegally carried or dumped waste. Four Ford Transit vans were confiscated in January 2016 alone.

Not only does the campaign take action against criminal actions, it emboldens residents to take part in council-backed clean-ups throughout the borough to become ‘clean and green street champions‘.

But is there any visible improvement? To be completely honest, no

The council describes these helpful citizens as follows: ‘Clean and green street champions are a network of people who have volunteered to improve the environment in their local area. Champions are local people who work alongside Croydon Council and its partners to encourage residents and businesses to recycle more, manage their waste responsibly and reduce instances of environmental crime”.

That’s enough statistics for now – is there actually any visible difference to the streets of Croydon? To be completely honest, no. The council may have ticketed one man for dropping a cigarette, but there’s still grease-filled McDonald’s bags flying around our town. The council’s efforts (or at least numbers) may be impressive, however they do not even scratch the surface of Croydon’s litter problem. Only last week plastic bottles and cellophane wrappers covered the woods near my home but no council worker or so-called ‘clean and green street champion’ came to clear it up. In the end my mother did it, whilst on a walk with our dog. Are we supposed to disinfect all public areas ourselves?

I’m sad to observe that so far, a campaign that’s meant to prevent and persuade citizens not to dump their waste illegally isn’t doing its job. If people were really anxious about being penalised they would not be continuing to fly-tip!

Croydon Council urges its residents to aid in its fly-tipping campaign by reporting anyone committing environmental crimes to a 24-hour telephone number, 020 8604 7000, or by . You can also download a simple-to-use smartphone app called My Croydon; this makes it quick and easy to report fly-tipping in your area.

We still have a long way to go, but one day we hope that we will not have to walk streets that are covered by dirt. My thanks to the council and selfless residents from our community who are assisting in this fight.

Here’s to a clean and green Croydon!

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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  • Austen

    I don’t use the MyCroydon app anymore, as it isn’t really fit for purpose. What I can recommend instead is FixMyStreet, available for iPhone and Android and online via its website. It works well and, unlike MyCroydon, you generally get acknowledgements from the council and you can track progress of your own reports and those from others in your area. Give it a go at https://www.fixmystreet.com/reports/Croydon

    • Max Shirley

      That sounds great! Thanks, I’ll make sure to look into it!

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

      Thanks for sharing this useful web site. We’ve recently had a clothes dryer dumped in our front garden, so will be taking a picture and posting.

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

    There are a number of serious issues dealing with waste resource management that neither the Council nor many of Croydon’s citizens are really tackling at the moment. The reason there’s no apparent improvement on the streets is because there are still a considerable number of people that think it’s quite OK to drop litter on them. Unless we can change these people’s attitude, doing the occasional community litter-pick, worthwhile as this may be, is not going to get to the route of the problem. The council is also guilty of not taking its recycling responsibilities seriously enough. In my experience the average household produces as much waste that can be recycled as waste that can’t and yet the bins provided for recycling are pitifully small. Yesterday I talked to some pensioners who wanted to recycle their food waste but were told that because they were not able to do so online, they would have to pay for their food waste bin. This is not the way to encourage people to recycle. I hope to launch a campaign to persuade the Council to hold an annual recycling week, that would also tackle the problems of litter and fly-tipping etc, and will hopefully be allowed to use the invaluable resource of the Croydon Citizen to do so. In the meantime if anyone has any ideas of what they would like to see included in such a week, they can email me at .

    • Max Shirley

      Sounds like an interesting campaign, would love to hear of any advancement made.

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

        Hi Max,

        Yes, I will try and launch the campaign to coincide with the article that I hope The Citizen will publish. I will try and get something started by Easter, and will add you, if that’s OK, to my mailing list.

        • Max Shirley

          That’s fine, would love to get involved!

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

            Hi Max, that’s great. If you could just send a quick email to , then I’ll have your email address. Will try and organize an initial meeting sometime next month.

          • Max Shirley

            By the way – I emailed you a couple of ideas I had for the campaign.

    • Anne Giles

      We have two green boxes and two blue boxes. We just asked for the extra ones.

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

        That’s great Anne, and I’m sure you’ll use them. Yet I think it would be better if everyone was given 1 larger box or 2 larger boxes in the first place. Also Croydon seems to have two different ways of dealing with recyclable materials – as we, living in a block of flats, have merely one box for all recyclables. It would be interesting to know which was the more economic and effective method of collecting as high a recyclable product as possible. I am planning to start a campaign shortly to both try and help Croydon’s recycling rate and to try and tackle its rather shameful litter problem. I am looking for fellow volunteers to join me, and hope the Citizen will publish an article I’m working on, to help launch the group.

        • Anne Giles

          There would be no room for boxes larger than the ones we have, nor would we be able to carry them out to the front. We didn’t pay for the green cycling either, as there is no room for another wheelie bin where we are.

          • Max Shirley

            I agree – bigger boxes aren’t the answer, but we need to be given more than one of each from the start!

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

            Hi in Woking our recycling bins were on wheels, not boxes, which gave you more space and made them easier to move.

          • Anne Giles

            That wouldn’t make any difference here, when we have steps.

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

            Ah, not so easy then, but I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be a variety of containers for different locations. I do though know of plenty of locations in Croydon where recycling wheelie bins would be quite appropriate.

          • Anne Giles

            I am sure you are right.