In September 2021, the British Youth Council issued an appeal to its supporters to complete sponsored litter picks in their local area, fundraising for the British Youth Council, in the Big Autumn Litter Pick. The appeal came in the run-up to COP26 and in the year where the UK Youth Parliament and Youth Councils across the country were campaigning to stop plastic pollution. Last year, Stop Plastic Pollution was voted as one of three top priority issues facing young people in the 2020 Mark Your Mark election.
It is understandable why young people are alarmed at the rate of plastic pollution occurring in the UK. The average Briton’s annual plastic waste includes 242 plastic bottles, 109 single-use coffee cups and 209 crisp packets. According to OSPAR (2009), eight million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans daily. Approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK, according to the Marine Conservation Society (2016), and this includes the shores of coastal communities such as Blackpool.
Plastic production also directly contributes to the climate crisis. Producing one ton of plastic generates up to 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide, according to Material Economics (2018). So stopping plastic pollution is a critical front in the battle for the future.
In order to contribute to tackling plastic pollution and raise funds for the British Youth Council, Blackpool Youth Council were the first Youth Council in the country to heed the call of the Big Autumn Litter Pick.
In September, Blackpool Youth Council agreed that the ideal time to carry out the litter pick was in October half-term. October is one of the busiest tourist seasons for Blackpool which often results in a great deal of plastic being littered along the Promenade, with tourists choosing to dump their waste rather than take it home. This happens much to the disgruntlement of residents, particularly local young people. There was also substantial plastic pollution around the Bloomfield Road Football Stadium, after a derby match between Blackpool F.C. and rivals Preston North End the previous weekend.
When asked why he did it, Andrew Speight, Member of Youth Parliament for Blackpool, Chair of Blackpool Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament Steering Group representative for the North West, said:
“The British Youth Council is a charity that has well and truly changed my life, as well as enabling me to help change the lives of other young people locally and nationally. Whilst participating in British Youth Council programmes, I have nurtured many skills which have led me to find employment and campaigned for change on issues which are important to young people The litter pick was part of that campaign.
Last year, in Make Your Mark, young people across the nation made it absolutely clear that they wanted action on plastic pollution. My constituents here in Blackpool have also been telling me for years now, even since before I was elected, of their disgust at the behaviour of tourists who dump their rubbish in our home and then drive off. It is not ours, as their representatives, to reason why this result came out of Make Your Mark, it is ours simply to do. I was acting on instruction from the young people I represent.
Although litter picks do stop some plastic pollution, they are ultimately an inadequate solution, as even a group of pickers cannot stop all plastic ending up in the ocean. In order to adequately address the problem in reality, it is important to remember that we need to turn off the tap at the source and reduce plastic production. No amount of litter picks will truly solve the problem.”
The Blackpool Big Autumn Litter Pick took place on 27th October 2021, in the midst of a ferocious rainstorm which was particularly vicious by the sea. Nonetheless, Blackpool Youth Council and young volunteers from local community interest company URPotential went straight onto the promenade, undeterred by the heavy rain, and conducted a thorough litter pick, as well as picking in the nearby areas of Bloomfield and Revoe.
Blackpool Youth Council found a variety of disgusting droppings around the Town, ranging from beer bottles to COVID-19 test packaging in a local park.
In order to incentivise sponsorship, Blackpool Youth Council members dressed in a comedic fashion.
Annie commented, “I did the litter pick because when I heard about the British Youth Council’s Big Autumn Litter Pick I thought it was a great idea to help raise awareness of plastic pollution while raising funds. It was important to me as I am concerned about climate change and plastic pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife. Young people should be involved with litter picking to set a good example and raise awareness.”
Rob added, “I did it because this is where I’ve grown up, and seeing it like it is made me want to do something about it, it’s my home, and I won’t sit there and let this happen. It’s very important because as I’ve grown up, as I’ve learnt more about the messes that are in and around Blackpool, the more it irked me. I grew up here, and it’s in one hell of a state. Something needed to be done, and I wanted to help as much as I can.”
Blackpool Youth Council successfully completed a significant amount of fundraising. As of 1st November, they have raised over £200 (including Gift Aid) towards the national £500 target, meaning they’ve contributed over 40% of the total funds – a significant achievement and greatly valued contribution.
Find out more about the Big Autumn Litter Pick or get involved : https://www.byc.org.uk/blog/2021/the-british-youth-councils-big-autumn-litter-pick