Litter in Acton Park is a Load of Rubbish
Green flag park makes me see red
As sunny weather hits Acton, abundant blossom looks ravishing against the clear blue sky, leaves and buds are bursting out everywhere you look and there's a freshness in the air. So what is making me grumpy and unreasonable every time I take my dog down to the park? For those of you who have spent time in Acton Park, this will come as no surprise: it's the litter.
On Saturday afternoon, inspired by the litter-picking Paint-Out team outside the Oaks and even accompanied by one of Acton's litter-pick maestros Sara Nathan, I grabbed my dog, rubber gloves and camera in a bid to do some heavy-duty multi-tasking. Soon, Sara and I were to be found amongst the rhodedendron bushes clearing beer cans, fast-food containers, scattered newspapers and an assortment of other items, some of them unmentionable. A bench nearby was surrounded with rubbish which looked as though it had been there for weeks.
Worst of all, the playground and picnic area next to the spanking new Play Hut was adrift with so much rubbish that even evangelical litter-pickers like us felt discouraged by the mess. Next to the play hut in a gated off area there is an inaccessible bin behind railings (see right) which is one of the worst eye-sores in the park. [I've heard it has been cleared this afternoon]. Others are the large, stagnant puddle which is next to the new pond which attracts rubbish, the bench next to the rhodedendrons which is used by quite a few people as a bed and other benches which some people treat like litter bins.
We spoke to quite a few people - it was Saturday afternoon and the park was full of picnickers, people enjoying the sunshine, walkers, joggers and families with young children. As we picked up litter close to groups of people we often talked to them, checking whether they were intending to take their litter home. This may be eccentric behaviour, and striking up conversations with strangers is rather un-British, but it didn't upset anyone and most people I spoke to were friendly. Some people said they were pleased to see someone taking matters into their own hands. I began to wonder how many people would be willing to give up an hour of their time to pick up litter as a group activity on a regular basis.
I've been back this week to do more litter-picking both on my own (which is no fun at all) and with Sara (which is much more fun). I've lost count of the number of black bags we've filled up. Probably around eight. I spoke to Andy Hawkins, whose office is in the park and who is the Senior Contracts Manager in Ealing for the Grounds Maintenance operation which is now owned by Veolia, a French company who state on their website that: "we are the world leader in environmental services." Andy says that he is working with Ealing Council to "get [Acton Park] sorted". He told me how the bins are normally emptied once a day and that he is hoping to get an increase on his budget so that this can become twice. He sounded enthusiastic about the idea of local people getting involved and said he would be willing to help us by supplying bin bags and litter picks. Serena Rogers reinforced this - she told me:
there is a practical opportunity to enhance services delivered by the
service via community based volunteer work, then we can find ways to
support such efforts."
Andy works closely with Eric James at Ealing Council. Eric also gave me some news which was music to my ears: "We are looking to increase the volume of rubbish pick-ups to twice daily, seven days a week. This should be starting this weekend, with deep cleans once a month." He told me that the warm weather had caught everyone by surprise. But as a regular park user I would say that although it's certainly much worse at the moment, the park is always litter strewn - even in January. Serena Rogers posted on the ActonW3.com Forum today that:
"from this week until August they will also empty the bins each afternoon at Acton Park". I do hope they will continue through August until October because I've heard it's going to be very hot this Summer.
Park rangers have been issued with Fixed Penalty Notice forms, but since they patrol in official shirts it could be quite difficult to catch people. I will be talking to the rangers over the next few days in my quest to make Acton Park a cleaner place and will keep an eye on the litter to see whether a local litter army is needed. Serena says: " The Rangers work seven days a week, currently until 8pm. From May, the Rangers will work to 9pm each night until September. The Rangers patrol Acton Park at least once a day." She has provided more details in the Forum thread about the subject.
The irony of all this is that Acton Park has been awarded a Green Flag under the green flag scheme (greenflagaward.org.uk). The judges should have been there at the weekend. And on Monday morning, and Wednesday morning. This morning at 10:30am I managed to fill a large black bag with rubbish, much of it from around the all purpose sports section of the park which has no easily accessible bins. It wasn't nearly as bad as it had been at the weekend, but there was still too much rubbish around.
Some people I have spoken to pointed out that there are no loos in the park which means that people use areas of the park like the rhodedendron bushes and around the side of the Play Hut. Others told me their dogs had been injured on broken glass. I have seen for myself that the park is used for drinking and drug taking in the evenings.
Many of the people I spoke to mentioned education. There is no doubt that someone who "feels the need" to leave litter outside a bin needs education. One thing is clear. Acton Park, though better now, needs to be kept clean.
April 19, 2007