In the second of a series of articles providing an update on the Cleaner Greener Wanstead initiative, Councillor Paul Donovan (Wanstead Village, Labour) says it’s time to tackle the waste epidemic
The pandemic led to more rubbish around Wanstead. Especially galling has been the discarding of masks. The aim of the mask is to stop the spread of Covid – how does chucking it on the ground do this? One of the aims of Cleaner Greener Wanstead is to take greater individual responsibility.
What is it that makes people believe they are so entitled that simply putting rubbish in the bin or taking it home is below them? No, dump it on the ground for someone else to pick up. At one point, Redbridge Council were taking more litter off Christchurch Green than Valentines Park. Note, the full-time worker deployed simply to clear up after those who cannot deal with their own rubbish. There is also the monthly litter pick (third Saturday of the month, meeting at 10am on Woodbine Place), as well as ad hoc individual efforts.
Plastic is another particular problem. The planet is simply getting clogged up with plastic, being used and discarded on land and in the sea. There are efforts to cut single-use plastic, as well as find alternatives, but progress is slow. What is really needed to address the problems of litter and plastic (often one and the same) is to stop creating the stuff in the first place. Recycling is good and should be encouraged, but a step further is to not create the rubbish to start with.
Cleaner Greener Wanstead sought to address the joint problems of plastic waste and litter. An early initiative was to try to get our High Street shops to not use single plastic. One Saturday, as part of a nationwide project, activists took the plastic back to a number of supermarkets, including the Co-op, Tesco and M&S. The stores listened attentively and promised to take the argument on board – some progress is being made at a national level, but what about here?
There is still a lot of single-use plastic on Wanstead High Street – the thousands of plastic lids on takeaway coffee cups spring to mind. Wanstead Climate Action recently conducted a survey of nine coffee shops, with responses varying from “couldn’t care” to “you won’t find plastic here”. La Bakerie, Bare Brew and City Place Coffee came out on top, offering discounts for those who bring their own cups. Consumer power can bring change. Supporting those shops doing the right thing for the environment will help.
These have been difficult times with the pandemic darkening all our lives over the past 18 months. Some of the initiatives begun pre-pandemic have stalled due to the crisis, but now is the time to redouble our efforts. We need to take real action to cut the amount of waste being created, and when that is not possible, deal responsibly with the residue.
There is only one planet and we all have a responsibility to look after it.
For more information on the initiative, visit cleanergreenerwanstead.org