Northants Litter Wombles secure 'summit' with minister

Woman in hi-viz jacket and man in black T-shirt stand next to rubbish bag
Campaigners Alison McClean and Mark Watson want more government action to tackle litter

A group of litter-picking volunteers has secured a "litter summit" with a government minister.

The Northants Litter Wombles, formed during the Covid pandemic, is calling for a government commitment to tackle littering.

The group, which has 3,500 members and has picked up 68,000 bags of litter, will attend the event with environment minister Rebecca Pow in October.

The government said it was increasing the penalties for littering.

Furry creatures "the Wombles" gather around a pile of rubbish
The cuddly clean-up characters The Wombles were the group's inspiration

The volunteer Wombles are all given purple hi-viz jackets and are affectionately known as the "Purple Army".

Alison McClean, the events coordinator for the group, said: "We have a war on litter but we're very passive.

"We are focused and determined to eradicate litter from Northants as soon as we can - we did have a target of 2030, but we want to do it now."

The volunteer Wombles are all given purple hi-viz jackets and are affectionately known as the "Purple Army".

Women in blue jacket with glasses at dispatch box of House of Commons
The Wombles will be meeting the environment minister, Rebecca Pow

Members of the group have already been to Parliament in July to make their case and the litter summit in October will be a chance to ask what the government has done about the issue since then.

The event will be attended by the environment minister Rebecca Pow, as well as MPs and councillors from Northamptonshire.

"We want to get them to make some commitments, especially to improving the amount of bins that are around, and what they can do to support us," said Ms McClean.

Pop-up bins

One of the initiatives the group has tried is a pop-up bin experiment, which involves placing purple rubbish bags in areas where a lot of litter has accumulated.

It said these had been well-used, suggesting the introduction of bins in those areas could help.

Mark Watson, a group member who recently moved to the area from Oxfordshire, said the amount of litter he found was "shocking" but added there was now an "increased awareness" of the issue.

The government said it had increased the upper limit for on-the-spot fines for littering and ringfenced the proceeds for clean-up and enforcement operations.

It would also be making more money available to help councils tackle fly-tipping and would be abolishing fees for disposing of DIY waste at recycling centres.

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