Where Others Can't...LAGER Can!

Massive ongoing success of Ealing's community litter group

Just some of the rubbish cleared from Warren Farm. Picture: LAGER Can

A community litter picking group which started in Hanwell three years ago has gone from strength to strength and is now heading towards 1000 members.

Local resident, Keith Freegard, was fed up seeing regular debris and mess left in the Bunny Park and formed a group which became known as LAGER (Litter Action Group For Ealing Residents) Can.

More residents began to get involved and formed small teams to clear-up their immediate areas.

Keith Freegard and members of LAGER can, image Paul James

Numbers started to swell and by June 2020 there were 270+, but from Summer onwards there's been a massive influx with clear-ups taking place in parks, along canals, riverside and derelict areas. Partnerships have formed with the Canal & River Trust for all water-based activities, especially the Grand Union Canal; and volunteer groups, Green S Welfare and the Good Gym.

(LAGER Can members with the rubbish they collected in Northolt. Picture: Mark Percy )

Organiser, Cathy Swift who has overseen this growth is delighted and says: ''We held our first group litter picking event at Warren Farm on 20 June. This attracted a large number of existing and new members who suggested other problem areas in their neighbourhoods.

" Since June we have held about 90 organised group events, and there have been countless spontaneous group and solo litter picking efforts. The increased activity and visibility of the group helped membership to grow to the current 850. And about five dogs.''

Cathy's dog Minnie with special LAGER Can vest

The group cover the whole borough and range in ages from youngsters to the more mature. Recently a number of local schools have become involved as part of the Duke of Edinburgh awards so the LAGER effect has been spread even wider.

Cathy says she has been litter picking as long as she can remember, and can't extol its virtues and benefits enough: '' When I moved back to London from rural Bedfordshire 10 years ago I was really upset and quite depressed about the amount of litter and flytipping, and the fact that no one seemed to care about it. I am so very happy to know that there are many, many people who feel the same way as I do.''

She says she was delighted to find so many people in Ealing with similar opinions and recognises that it's been particularly beneficial throughout this difficult year, as a naturally socially-distanced outdoor activity providing exercise, fresh air and much needed interaction with real friendships being made through the shared work.

Cathy Swift with some of the collected rubbish

The range of rubbish being cleared by LAGER Can members includes the usual suspects:Cans, bottles, coffee cups, cigarette ends, used PPE, fast food packaging, kitchen food waste that has been flytipped in public bins, picnic leftovers, clothing, nitrous oxide canisters, needles, drugs, several knives, graffiti artists' paint canisters. Thousands of larger items have also been disposed of safely too including; tents, mattresses, tyres, bollards, even a piano.

Worryingly on a recent litter pick in woods near Trumpers Way, a gun was discovered -now subject to police forensic examination and no more can be revealed.

Members are advised not to touch anything hazardous (needles, knives, dog poo etc) except with the most caution,and wear protective gear, gloved hands, and use pickers.

Ealing Council provide the equipment including the newly-launched blue LAGER Can-branded blue rubbish sacks, posters, and blue LAGER Can branded hi-vis vests.

Parks Rangers and other local authority employees are often involved in the clear-ups including cutting back vegetation and collecting the vast quantities of rubbish and removing items such as huge flytips and burnt out wheelie bins from Warren Farm and Cathy says it's an example of great teamwork with the Council.

Now Autumn is here and the leaves are falling, some members are also taking the initiative to clear them up from the pavements in a bid to make the paths safer - green bags can be collected for this from LAGER can.

Cathy urges everyone to get involved and says, ''My activity with LAGER Can has literally made me a happier person. I love tackling areas which have been neglected for a very long time.We have tackled some chronically littered/flytipped areas such as the Dog Rose Ramble in Greenford. The pleasure you get from cleaning these places up, and the appreciation we receive from residents, is hard to quantify"

She loves the clean environment, the camaraderie involved in the activity and seeing so many new friendships develop..which begs the question, is it time for Cathy to get a new hat?

"Haha. We have yet to celebrate our first LAGER Can wedding!"

But who knows? Love can often bloom in the most unusual of places!

Find LAGER Can on Facebook, @CanLager on Twitter @lagercanealing on Instagram

LAGER Can works in partnership with Ealing Council, businesses, schools, and other organisations to remove rubbish from our open spaces and improve our environment for everyone to enjoy.We work with local stakeholders to change the behaviour that leads to littering, flytipping and general disrespect of our environment.We cooperate and share learning with groups with similar interests in neighbouring Boroughs. LAGER Can is committed to making the London Borough of Ealing cleaner, greener and safer

Annemarie Flanagan

28 October 2020