For the last 12 months the way that we have led our lives has changed dramatically. Shops and complexes have been closed, holidays and travel has been suspended and people have been told to stay at home, stay safe and protect the NHS. These restrictions have been hard on the majority of the U.K as we haven’t been able to see family, celebrate milestones and do all of the things that we usually do but these restrictions have had benefits outside of COVID. The effect on our environment has been incredible. Less people out means less litter being thrown, less energy being used and less pollution. Carbon emissions in 2020 fell by 17% across the U.K with the same kind of impact being seen across the world as everywhere shut down because of the virus. The impact of COVID on our environment wasn’t all positive though.
As of July 2020, it has been mandatory for masks to be worn on public transport, in shops and supermarkets and in other indoor spaces. This has meant that the demand of masks and PPE has increased tenfold. But with a staggering 53 million single use masks being thrown away by Britons every single day, we are seeing a new type of litter problem. Gone are the coffee cups and sandwich wrappers and now gloves, wipes or masks take their place. According to you YouGov poll untaken in November 2020, 76% of the public noticed more PPE litter and with no end in sight for mask wearing, this is a problem that is only going to get worse as we start to come out of lockdown and more people start coming out into public areas.
It isn’t just PPE litter that was a problem when restricts were lifted last year. Restaurants and bars are still going to be closed for indoor dining until at least May at the earliest so this means that people will be getting takeaway drinks and food and then heading to an outdoor space where they will be allowed to see family and friends. When this happened in 2020, it came with huge environmental impact. The Lake district National Park Authority collected over 300 bags of rubbish over a single weekend in June. During the summer, an estimated 500,000 people visited Bournemouth in one day which created a shocking 8 tonnes worth of rubbish! Volunteer groups were assembled to litter pick and help in both instances but where is the accountability on the public who leave their rubbish for someone else to pick up? This volume of littering has an incredibly impact on local wildlife and on the local authority who have to deal with it. Even as restrictions life in 2021, travel abroad is going to be difficult so we can expect the same volumes of people holidaying in the UK and meeting friends outside which means we can expect the same shocking amount of litter.
But what can you do to help as we come out of restrictions in 2021? Firstly, and most simply, you can take your rubbish home whenever you are out and dispose of it in the correct manner. Secondly, you can volunteer to help with beach clean-up or litter picking in your local areas. Finally, you can encourage your local authority to act OR if you are from a local authority then look at what is available to you to help. At L A Support we offer a full service to support you with your environmental protection needs. We have fully trained and dedicated offers who can patrol hot spots to deter littering and to enforce consequences if people choose not to follow the law and do decide to drop litter. We can be flexible in what we do so we can fit the requirements of any local authority and we are cost effective. L A Support is currently working with 34 local authorities across the U.K and if you want to find out how we can help you then get in touch today.