LAGER Can Takes Stock of the Last Three Years

Over 40,000 volunteers hours given and 80,000 bags worth of litter collected

Local school children and DofE groups have joined the effort

May 18, 2023

The Litter Action Group for Ealing Residents (LAGER Can) has taken stock of it and its partners achievements since 2020.

The move was prompted by a laudatory article about the council’s Ealing Council’s Environmental Services, Greener Ealing Ltd (GEL), in the latest edition of Around Ealing.

LAGER Can’s records show that in two-and-a-half years since it started recording its activity the group has donated at least 40,906 volunteer-hours, and collected at least 87,371 bags’ worth of litter, recyclables, leaves and large, unbaggable items. In preparation for a March 2023 Westminster Hall debate, ‘Support for Litter Picking Groups’, called by Virendra Sharma MP (Ealing Southall), LAGER Can estimated that they had donated £282,000 worth of labour in 2022 alone.

Cathy Swift, LAGER Can Chair, explains, “Happily for LAGER Can, the award of GEL’s first contract coincided with a huge increase in our own activity, which started in June 2020 with a series of cleanups at Warren Farm. At that time we had just 375 members. Right from the start we found our partners at Ealing Council and GEL incredibly supportive. Today we have well over 2,000 members.”

Trustee Jo Bennett, whose colourful postbox toppers have served the dual purpose of raising awareness of LAGER Can and brightening up the borough, says, “We know that many members do not log their work, so these numbers should be seen as low estimates. We have forged excellent relationships with GEL management and operatives, and the Ealing Council officers who manage the contract. Without such great support we simply would not have been able to achieve these results.”

LAGER Can members are also keen to change the behaviours that lead to littering and flytipping, for example, by helping residents acquire wheelie bins, producing posters aimed at encouraging the correct disposal of rubbish.

Jo Bennett, whose colourful postbox toppers have served the dual purpose of raising awareness of LAGER Can
Jo Bennett's postbox toppers have raised awareness of LAGER Can

GEL’s Managing Director, Kevin O’Leary, writes, “Greener Ealing has been delighted to work with LAGER Can since taking over the Environmental Services contract for Ealing Council in 2020. We have been amazed by the effort and dedication shown by the LAGER Can volunteers and have done our best to keep up with them, providing support whenever we can. They really are an example to others, showing what can be done.”

Earl McKenzie, Assistant Director, Streets and Direct Services at Ealing Council, agreed adding, "As a Council, we have some extremely challenging objectives in relation to environmental management. The support provided by LAGER Can volunteers since the lockdown has been invaluable in helping to raise awareness, resolving some historic problems through local knowledge, and providing intelligence to support targeted enforcement. A fantastic example of community ownership of environmental stewardship and productive partnership working with the Council"

Khalsa Primary School’s Assistant Headteacher, Sean Formella says, “We have been working with volunteers from LAGER Can to help teach our children about the importance of looking after their local areas and green spaces. Our children love taking part in weekly litter picking and are learning lessons which they can pass on to their families.” Cathy Swift adds, “We are very keen to engage with young people, and were delighted when Khalsa Primary School won Keep Britain Tidy’s Young Litter Heroes award 2023. We’re optimistic that St Anselm’s and St Mary’s Primary Schools, both of whom have committed to regular litter picking with LAGER Can support, will be similarly honoured in the future, and we’re delighted with the recent appointment of our Outreach Officer, Amanda Fitzroy, who will be doing her best to encourage other schools to join.”

LAGER Can’s Duke of Edinburgh Co-ordinator, Sadaf Maruf, reports, “LAGER Can’s D of E programme started with a handful of teenage girls who couldn't find a place to volunteer during the pandemic. Since September 2020 it has helped 206 students in the Borough of Ealing and as far away as Edinburgh and Looe in Cornwall, spreading the word of its activities through social media.”

Members have made a special effort during Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean during the past three years, cleaning every street in Southall in 2021, Northolt in 2022 and Greenford in 2023. But, for LAGER Can, rubbish removal is not something that only takes place for two weeks a year – it is a daily activity.

A small proportion of the 80,000 plus bags of rubbish collected

Jacquie de Bidaph, another LAGER Can Trustee, says, “We were pleased that volunteering was so widely promoted as part of the Coronation celebrations. Local authorities around the country are struggling to meet the demands on their overstretched budgets. We care for the environment and choose to be part of the solution to littering and flytipping rather than getting upset about it.”

In March 2021 LAGER Can and their partner group Clean Up the River Brent (CURB) were accredited by Thames 21 as River Action Groups, and have worked together since to remove up to 100 tonnes of rubbish from the River Brent and its banks in the London Boroughs of Brent, Barnet and Ealing This effort has seen many members sporting waders and learning to canoe in order to get to the rubbish. CURB’s Ben Morris says “LAGER Can’s contribution to cleaning up the River Brent has been both inspiring and incredibly effective. We have been so lucky to form such a productive partnership with their incredible volunteers.”

Volunteers rest after another successful clean up
Volunteers rest after another successful clean up

Cathy continues, “Sadly, rubbish is everywhere. There are many reasons for this, and each cause requires a different solution. The massive growth in out-of-home food and drink consumption has not been matched by a corresponding growth in ‘binfrastructure’. The conversion of single properties into homes of multiple occupation (HMOs) has led to a massive increase in the rubbish generated, and some properties have nowhere to store it. Access to the one remaining tip in the Borough is challenging for some residents, and Ealing Council’s bulk waste collection service is not always good value. And then there is the careless minority who will litter and flytip no matter what you do to help them. But we believe it should be made as easy and inexpensive as possible to get rid of your waste responsibly. In the meantime, we will carry on doing what we can to make Ealing greener and cleaner.”

LAGER Can's work has been recognised with a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

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