Fighting Litter in Milton Keynes with #LoveMKHateLitter

Joining the litterpick league to keep our city clean

It all started with Milton Keynes based Laura Chapman’s tweet, challenging her followers to join her on a seven-day litter-picking challenge hashtagged #LoveMKHateLitter:

Frustrated by litter threatening our beautiful MK, Kaizen McDonald’s marketing manager had decided to take matters into her hands by launching the virtual challenge and creating the #LoveMKHateLitter hashtag to spread the word.

The proposition was simple enough: Go for a walk, fill up your bin bag, take a selfie and share.

As we’ve come to enjoy the great outdoors and the green spaces we are fortunate to have in Milton Keynes more during the lockdown period, and with the lovely weather we had back in May, there’s been a drastic increase in litter around the city. This is not an MK problem either, as research conducted by Keep Britain Tidy found out that 62 % of people litter.

Inspired by the words, “If you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” I remembered just how many walks I’d taken around my neighbourhood, littered by leftovers of a picnic – sandwich wrappers, drinks cans, cream canisters, cigarette packs – moaning about people’s lack of consideration for the community and the environment…

It had never once occurred to me that I could grab a bag put on some gloves and do my bit. I know I am just one person but if enough of us get together, even virtually, we can be a league of litter fighters in our mission to keep MK free.

I started on a Monday, and dare I say, it was a miserable experience. The only downside to Laura’s challenge was that she hadn’t managed to arrange some good weather. Soaked in the rain, and completely grossed out by the rubbish left around park benches after a sunny weekend, I came home with a full bag. After sorting out the recycling, hubby on full alert reminding me to keep Covid-19 out, and embarrassed that our neighbours would think lockdown had turned us into heavy drinkers at the sight of beer bottles in our glass recycling, I headed straight for the shower.

The next few days were a succession of more rainy litter picks which kept me perplexed and enraged in equal measure at the sight of litter that kept on accumulating. I’d do a sweep of an area on Tuesday, only to find more rubbish the next evening!

The most baffling items were masks – with all the debate around masks – you would think that people who opt for face coverings are considerate and kind people who look out for the greater good of our communit. If wearing a mask is a sign of caring for others, why would you then discard it on the side of the road?

After six days of rain-drenched and wind-swept lonesome litter picking, often getting side-eyed by strangers wary of the hoody wearing woman moaning to her dog as she fills bag after bag, I caught up with Laura’s timeline on Friday. Her end-of-week rant where she echoed similar feelings really resonated with me. Following an online rant, we decided to make a date on Monday to rant and look weird together in Broughton where we both live.

An hour’s hard work of skipping over wild overgrowth (Laura in her skirt) and bending every two seconds (Me with no litterpicker) ended with three full bags of litter – with socks, tupperware, disposable masks and gloves, drinks cans aplenty. The oddest item? A pair of flip flops on the side of the road which we found so odd that we had to take a selfie. Mind boggled.

Taking part in the #LoveMkHateLitter initiative was eye-opening, disheartening but also motivating all at once.

Eye-opening because you don’t really get to see the scale of the problem until you start going out to look for rubbish – and trust me, you don’t have to look far. It is everywhere – on the side of H and V roads, outside shops, under park benches, entangled in the shrubbery. And once you’ve seen it you can’t unseen it. I now feel like I should stop to pick litter as I drive around town.

Disheartening because during the lockdown, I genuinely felt we were blessed to have such beauty right on our doorstep here in Milton Keynes and that everyone appreciated it as much as I did. With increasing community spirit and care for each other, I also thought antisocial behaviour would be a thing of the past. How wrong was I?

And finally… Motivational because until I started following Laura and hearing more about #LoveMkHateLitter I would walk past litter and moan about it, never once thinking I had two options: either have a moan and do nothing or pick up a bin bag and start doing your bit.

If there are enough of us, then perhaps we can collectively influence our communities. Since its launch the #LoveMKHateLitter hashtag has been viewed 89,000 which is great news. We are lucky to live in beautiful Milton Keynes and perhaps leading by example we can teach others to look after our city.

As for future litter picking activities, count me in.

If you would like to take part in #LoveMKHateLitter, join Laura’s Facebook group now.

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