Things seemed to have moved a long way since we invited participation in the 2017 Litter Heroes awards. Thanks in no small way to Sir David Attenborough and the Blue Planet II series on BBC One, as well as to the tireless campaigning over many years of CPRE and others, litter is now big news.
When we introduced our King Wastealot cartoon character to our website Schools Rubbish campaign seven years ago, we wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of discarded plastic among Northants schoolchildren. We showed them pictures of hedgehogs and foxes and birds getting tangled in packaging – with deadly effects.
What we didn’t expect was that teachers from all over the English-speaking world would use our campaign resources in their lessons. And while we are proud of our project, the global Blue Planet effect has of course been many orders of magnitude greater.
As a direct result of Blue Planet II, we now know that even in landlocked Northamptonshire, plastic bottles and witches’ knickers find their way into the Nene and Great Ouse, and thence to the North Sea and the world’s oceans. Perhaps you remember our 2012 campaign on witches’ knickers - the wind-shredded plastic bags that adorn the hedgerows and end up in rivers? Our throwaway food wrapping results in marine wildlife on the other side of the globe suffering from the same hazards as our county fauna.
Now is clearly the time to tap into this zeitgeist. For 2018 we could have added an award for “plogging” (the new fitness craze from Scandinavia – litter collecting while jogging). But we have always stressed that successful litter collection is not about who fills the greatest number of black bags. It is about increasing awareness, and encouraging a change in behaviour, with the aim that plastic and other unwanted packaging never reaches the great outdoors in the first place.
Our 2018 Litter Heroes Awards will therefore stay with the successful formula of encouraging village and community group litter picks. There will again be a main prize of £500 and three runner-up prizes of £150, with a further £150 prize for the best entry from a team of children or young people – from schools and other youth groups. As previously, the prize money may be spent on any community-related project in the local area of the winning group, at their discretion.
To enter the 2018 Awards:
The cheques will be presented to the winners at the CPRE Northamptonshire AGM meeting on July 2, 2018.