What is the Great British Spring Clean?
The Great British Spring Clean is an annual litter picking event organised by the charity Keep Britain Tidy. The event spans approximately two weeks each year, and encourages local ‘litter heroes’ to take to the streets, parks and beaches of Britain to clear up as much nasty litter as they can.
This is the eighth edition of the Great British Spring Clean. Previous events have been roaring successes, with over 500,000 participants regularly getting involved in recent years.3 And last year’s event, which the Housekeep team took part in, covered over 1,000,000 miles nationwide.4
This year’s event has been dubbed the #BigBagChallenge. The goal couldn’t be simpler – to collect as much litter as possible, while raising awareness about the environmental impact of litter.
Litter harms wildlife, damages our environment and costs the taxpayer millions
Litter has a huge effect on our environment and ecosystems. Taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of pounds each year to clear litter. And it’s a massive eyesore.
In total, there are 30,000,000 tonnes of litter are collected every year – that's the equivalent of four Wembley Stadium's worth.5 And there's plenty that goes uncollected in parks and woodland, as well as on streets and beaches.
And the litter lasts - It takes 10-20 years for a littered plastic bag to degrade, 80-100 years for an aluminium can, while plastic and glass bottles may never degrade.6
As well as being unpleasant and ugly, litter also has a catostrophic impact on wildlife. The RSPCA receive over 3000 calls per year about animals hurt by litter – with many instances unreported or being reported straight to vets, it’s likely that the true impact is much, much higher.7 Worldwide, the figures are even more shocking, plastic debris causing the deaths of 1,000,000 + seabirds every year, as well as 100,000 + marine mammals.8 But it's not just animals who suffer – discarded objects frequently lead to injury & spread illness among the public.9
The impact on our environment isn't much better either, with 60% of water pollution is attributed to litter,10 while poorly extinguished cigarette butts can lead to fires.11
You can get involved with the Great British Spring Clean today
It’s super simple to get involved and become a local litter hero. Just head to the Great British Spring Clean website and ‘pledge to pick’.
You can sign up on your own, or as part of a business or community group. And schools can take part in the Great Big School Clean, which runs parallel to the wider Great British Spring Clean.
You can provide your own litter-picking kit, or buy it through Keep Britain Tidy’s charity shop. It’s recommended that everyone uses a pair of gloves and a litter picker. Plus you’ll need bin bags and recycling bags.
If you’re cleaning as a group like we are, and expect to fill a fair few bags, you should contact your local council. They’ll provide you with free bags and arrange to collect the litter. Some councils may have litter pickers you can borrow too.
Litter heroes in action
Check out some of our favourite snaps from the team’s litter picking antics during last year’s Great British Spring Clean.
1) Gov.uk, Litter and littering in England 2018 to 2019 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/litter-and-littering-in-england-data-dashboard/litter-and-littering-in-england-2018-to-2019)
2) Unisan, How does litter harm the environment? (https://www.unisanuk.com/how-does-litter-harm-the-environment/)
3) Daily Mail, Half a million litter heroes! Tourist boards sign up for the Great British Spring Clean campaign - boosting the number of volunteers past the 500,000 milestone (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8084763/Half-million-litter-heroes-Volunteers-sign-Great-British-Spring-Clean.html)
4) Daily Mail, Thanks a million! That's how many miles of Britain you've pledged to spruce up for the Mail's campaign (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9653963/Thanks-million-Thats-miles-Britain-youve-pledged-tidy-Mails-campaign.html)
5) Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, More about Litter (https://www.hinckley-bosworth.gov.uk/info/580/litter_and_litter_bins/115/more_about_litter/3)
6) Litterbins.co.uk, The Facts About Litter (https://www.litterbins.co.uk/blog/the-facts-about-litter/)
7) RSPCA, How littering affects animals (https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/litter)
8) UNESCO, Facts and figures on marine pollution (http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/ioc-oceans/focus-areas/rio-20-ocean/blueprint-for-the-future-we-want/marine-pollution/facts-and-figures-on-marine-pollution/)
9) Ocean and Coastal Management, Human health impacts from litter on beaches and associated perceptions: A case study of ‘clean’ Tasmanian beaches (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301222883_Human_health_impacts_from_litter_on_beaches_and_associated_perceptions_A_case_study_of_'clean'_Tasmanian_beaches)
10) Carmelin.gov, Litter fact sheet (http://www.carmel.in.gov/home/showdocument?id=182)
11) Essex County Fire & Rescue Service, Garden fire caused by discarded cigarette (https://www.essex-fire.gov.uk/incidents/i8667/)