School litter pick cleans up community

School children on a litter pick in Frinton, Essex

Hamford Primary Academy students are taking action to discourage litterbugs and clean up their community - Credit: Archant

As part of the East of England Co-op's #EastTogether campaign, in partnership with Archant, find out how students at Hamford Primary Academy are picking up the gauntlet to reduce the environmental impact of littering in Essex. 

Environmental problems are being increasingly felt at a local level – especially by a generation of young people conscious of their ecological impact and looking for ways to help. 

The eco-council at Hamford Primary Academy in Walton recently discussed how it could make a positive contribution. The elected student body, with representatives from Year One to Year Six, decided it wanted to eliminate litter from the school. 

In the UK, more than two million pieces of litter are dropped on our streets every day, at a cost of £1 billion per year to the taxpayer. Waste can take years to degrade, harming wildlife and habitats, while people feel less safe in littered areas and the sight of litter contributes towards further crime. 

Hamford Primary Academy vice principal Teresa Cooper

Hamford Primary Academy vice principal Teresa Cooper - Credit: Hamford Primary Academy

“Our focus as we returned to school after lockdown was wellbeing and community,” says vice principal Teresa Cooper. “We've all been through incredibly difficult times, so we wanted to create more solid links between our school and the community.” 

On May 4, a group of Year Six students were accompanied by members of the parent community advisory board, a learning support assistant and police community support officer Michelle Diss as they cleaned up the community. The children braved blustering winds to remove improperly discarded waste products around the Triangle Shopping Centre in Walton. 

“The children were stunned by the amount of litter they came back with,” Teresa says. “One of the children, who is not always as involved academically as he could be, said that seeing all of that litter made him feel really sad, but the litter in the bags made him feel really happy that we had done something about it. It's a good example of how the school can create a constructive motivation for each child.” 

The eco-council had requested more litter picker tools from principal Mr Joy, before the East of England Co-op made a donation. “We're incredibly grateful to the East of England Co-op for that,” Teresa says. 

On Earth Day in April, Teresa asked the eco-councillors why environmental activities like this are so important. “The children told me that it was really important because this is our planet. They realise that they have a chance to change their parents’ opinion, so they’ve got mum and dad picking up litter, too. 

“We see a lot about the Amazon rainforest, but for our children the issue of environmentalism needed to be something very local. And that's why the litter pick was so important – it had an immediate impact and was very visible. It's only a small step but that will turn into many more steps.” 

Hamford Primary Academy school sign in front of a tree

Hamford Primary Academy is a school in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex - Credit: Archant

Examples of further steps already taken at Hamford Primary Academy include reducing plastic waste for packed lunches, monitoring food waste and installing recycling and compostable bins in each classroom, with a limit of one bag of waste per week, per class. As a coastal school, there are also plans to do a beach pick soon. 

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The East of England Co-op's community engagement manager Lynn Warner attended the litter pick. “It was really refreshing to see children getting involved and making a difference in their local community,” she says. “They were so enthusiastic. Even at that age they recognise the issues caused by litter and are concerned about the environment.” 

The East of England Co-op supports BBC Radio Suffolk’s Don't Be A Tosser campaign tackling litter, fly tipping and graffiti following lockdown. The engagement team have completed a number of community litter picks including a river clean in Stowmarket and a litter pick in Mersea Island. 

The East of England Co-op's community engagement manager Lynn Warner

The East of England Co-op's community engagement manager Lynn Warner - Credit: East of England Co-op

“We want our communities to be litter free for local residents and visitors alike,” says Lynn. “And litter isn't just something that looks a mess – it can also be dangerous. Unfortunately, there are a few people that don't yet feel that pride and continue to drop litter. 

“We’re aiming to inspire people to take care of their environment. We live in a beautiful part of the world and we want to ensure that it remains beautiful, so in a few weeks, we will be announcing some exciting plans in this respect."

For more information and guidance on how to litter pick safely, please visit www.eastofengland.coop/litter 

Watch more episodes from the #EastTogether series at www.eastofengland.coop/easttogether 

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