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Litter isn’t always rubbish

Litter isn’t always rubbish – just because someone has tossed it away, it doesn’t mean it can’t be useful again.

We’re not suggesting taking everything you find home with you (like a real-life womble) but maybe it’s time for a fresh way of thinking about litter?

Litter can be a useful resource and if it can be recycled (without harming yourself or damaging the recycling stream) that’s great news for a cleaner country and a healthier future for the planet.

Some of the simplest, commonly-found things to recycle are aluminium (fizzy drinks or beer) cans and plastic bottles.

Did you know, it takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastics than from new materials (and 95% less energy for aluminium cans)?


Recycling varies all across the country but don’t let that put you off recycling (or reusing) some of the litter you pick up for the Great British Spring Clean. Whether your cans get recycled into new cans or your plastic pieces becomes a piece of art, when it comes to litter, it’s not all rubbish.

Some of our regular #LitterHeroes are already separating and recycling the litter they collect. Southend BeachCare group are leading the way, collecting different categories of litter to be recycled, used in school arts projects and monitored for national citizen science projects (like the Big Bottle Count along the Thames).

The three worst offenders they find are cotton buds, bottle tops and plastic straws, either flushed away or dropped on the street to end up on the beach. During litter picks, the group collect these items in separate buckets, to be monitored (and upcycled into art later).

They are seeing positive results already; manufacturers switching to cardboard cotton buds has resulted in the group collecting fewer cotton buds from their beaches recently. Hopefully a similar trend will be seen in straws too, as more people say no to them, and more businesses find alternatives.

And thanks to a helpful chat with the waste company that collect their litter in Southend, this group are now able to recycle much of what they collect. By picking up cans, bottles and paper in separate coloured bags, they know these will be recycled into something useful again.

Our advice... If you are organising a large event, when you talk to your council about collecting your litter, see if they’ll collect separated recyclables too. Find out exactly what they’ll collect (eg. are bottle tops ok?) and how clean it has to be (paper with food stuck on it is often a no-no).

If each group just starting recycling a couple of suitable items, think what a difference we’d make together. ♻️

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