This year Eco Green Communities formed a partnership with the community group Rise Up Clean Up based in Margate. Together, we launched Eco Green Stations with free, dispensable litter bags, which encourage individuals to do their bit and clean their local environment. We decided to speak with Alanna, one of the core members of the RUCU and ask her more about the movement and its goals.
Hi Alanna, could you please tell us more about the Rise Up Clean Up project? Who is behind it and what triggered its existence?
The movement was set up by Amy Cook and Ian Hale, as a result of the excessive litter left behind on Margate beach during the Summer.
The community litter pick remains, and will continue to remain, at the heart of the movement.
But with the support of the local businesses, the broader creative community residing in Margate as well as Thanet District Council, we are hoping to start tackling the challenges which lead to the litter in the first place.
What is your role in the movement?
My focus has been on engaging with Thanet District Council and local businesses to find ways we can help each other with our shared goals of keeping Margate Beach beautiful and also protecting our oceans.
How often do you organise collections and who can join?
Amy and Ian organise and run the collections and absolutely anyone can join! Under 18's obviously need an adult to accompany them, but my 3-year-old son loves to go.
It's not physically difficult work and we have gloves, litter pickers and high vis vests to wear plus a Health and Safety officer at every organised pick.
In general the demographic is quite young and we'd love to see some more over 50's joining us.
Private collections have also been organised, for local groups such as Open School East and NCS.
In summer, the collections are weekly and in winter they become monthly, due to weather.
The organised litter picks are great because they are naturally socially distanced, social event. And when everyone is doing it together, you can quickly see just how much rubbish is being saved from the sea.
We're hoping that the Eco Green Stations will encourage people to collect and bin litter in between the organised events too.
What is your approach to litter picking? Are you focusing more on large litter picks or endorse the "every bit matter" strategy?
The strategy is simply to 'Normalise litter picking'.
The organised litter picks are the beating heart of what we're doing. They bring the community together and we can cover a lot of ground in one burst.
But every day, the tide comes in and the rubbish left on the beach washes away. With the addition of the TidyPacs, people can pick up litter lying around whenever they see it.
Some people don't like to pick litter up, or see it as the Councils job. And it would be amazing if the Council had the budget and resources to pick all the litter up! But they simply don't and it's really no skin off of my nose to pick some bits up as I walk the beach.
COVID-19 has been a part of our lives for a few months now, how did collections and movement, in general, adjust to the new normal?
We actually launched during the summer of 2020, so we have never known anything else. We are fairly free from constraints as voluntary work has not been curtailed due to COVID-19. We just ask that everyone involved wears a mask and gloves. We operate outside and there is always plenty of space between people, so it is easy to keep everyone safe.
Have you had a "wow" moment, which encouraged you to continue your mission within Rise Up Clean Up?
Not yet! I have been very encouraged by the support and enthusiasm from Thanet District Council, however. The people there are open to and genuinely supportive of all of our ideas. We seem to like each other, which makes it a lot easier!
It feels also feels like momentum is building; we have so many great projects in the pipeline which really excite me, so I don't want to miss out.
Which aspect of the Eco Green Communities concept appealed to your movement the most?
Normalising litter picking is a surprisingly big job, for a small act! Margate beach sees a lot of litter, so we need to have a constant presence to remind people, who will inevitably then need a bag too. The Eco stations fit the bill!
Both RUCU and Eco Green Communities are trying to involve and enable the community to create cleaner spaces.
How did the awareness about Rise Up Clean Up change after the introduction of the Eco stations?
They haven't gone in yet, so I can't answer this one!
What are your short-term and long-term plans with the movement?
Short-term it's all about normalising litter picking.
People picking up litter is a wonderful act of love for our beach, oceans and community. But to rely on the kindness of individuals to catch the flow of rubbish is disingenuous.
So longer term, we are looking at where all of the litter is coming from in the first place and working to stem that flow.
Wouldn't it be amazing for Margate to become a Plastic Free town, where it's super easy for people to recycle what rubbish is left?