This article was originally posted on The Croydon Citizen on 16/02/2016
Salute Croydon’s clean and green champions, but more must be done
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. 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?
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”.
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 statisticshere, along with details of some of the action taken to combat the problem, in coverage by theCitizen’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‘.
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 email. 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!
By Max Shirley