Litter Heroes join the Great British September Clean

James Lee, Managing Director of Cromwell Polythene, shares steps people can take to improve the environment on their doorstep.

As well as being an eyesore on our environment, litter discarded on our streets or that enters our rivers and seas can harm wildlife. In addition, items can contain toxic materials that are hazardous to our health. If illegally dumped, these can leach into water sources, contaminate the soil, and pollute the air, contributing to the bigger problem of climate change.

I’m sure most people want to do the right thing and dispose of their rubbish responsibly. However, with many families opting for a staycation over the summer, and with increased numbers of food outlets offering takeaway services, the sight of overflowing bins has become a common occurrence. This also attracts seagulls, who scatter the rubbish around further and leave it to the mercy of the wind.

Whilst cleaning operations and waste management and recycling collection services continue to work hard to manage this, they can be stretched at busy times, with their efforts hampered by the extra volume of rubbish being generated.

In our desire to protect the environment around us, plastic has become the focus of attention. We know that we all need to do more to act more sustainably, but litter pollution is not just about plastics or inadequate infrastructure for recovery and recycling, moreover it’s about behaviour. People create litter, it’s not caused by something being inherently wrong with the material.

Responsibly produced plastic can have a high recycled content (up to 100%) and can be reprocessed many times, not only saving virgin material but associated energy as well. It can offer many sustainable solutions to help mitigate the effects of a changing climate, for example significantly reducing food waste.

It’s a mistake to think we can solve the problems of litter or climate change by simply changing from plastic to alternatives that can risk burning through resources


faster. A recent report looking at the carbon impact of packaging material has found that, in most cases, the main alternatives to plastic packaging – cardboard, glass, steel and aluminium – ‘emit more greenhouse gases’. The report, titled ‘Examining material evidence – the carbon fingerprint’, commissioned by Veolia and published by Imperial College London, indicated that plastic can provide the lowest carbon emissions of available materials, providing it is recycled properly.

Knee-jerk reactions, however well-meaning they are, can lead to replacement material, which is heavier and more polluting, using more energy to produce and wasting more food.

Most people know what is right and wrong and appreciate that rubbish doesn’t make its own way into our oceans, streets, and the countryside. Everyone has a responsibility to take their waste home, put it in the correct bins and segregate waste correctly, and even carry out litter picks if they are able to do so. These small, effortless steps, coupled with more stringent controls of where our materials are sent for recycling, and appropriate investment in our waste management infrastructure, will help to prevent pollution and keep our planet clean.

We all need to play our part in helping to improve the environment. Regular readers of this column will know that, each year, Cromwell Polythene is proud to support a number of projects which help make a difference to the cleanliness of our streets and protect our planet.

This month, we’re supporting The Great British September Clean (11-27 September) organised by Keep Britain Tidy. We’ll be undertaking two clean ups around our headquarters and distribution facility at the business park, Sherburn2, in Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire. Our #LitterHeroes are looking forward to taking part and doing our bit to help keep our local area clean.

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