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On 13 April the University's Sustainability Team met in-person for the first time in over a year, for a litter pick! It was great to see our colleagues (and to enjoy the marvellous weather) all while making a positive impact on the local environment, with 15 bags of rubbish collected from paths, hedges and verges around the Madingley Rise, Eddington and West Cambridge sites. The litter pick was supported by Cambridge City Council's Streets and Open Spaces team who provided all the equipment - note that under current Covid regulations we arranged to split up into groups of no more than six after collecting our equipment, and maintained social distancing throughout.

The litter pick was also an opportunity to support an important project in the East of England. Preventing Plastic Pollution is run by the Rivers Trust and seeks to understand and reduce the impacts of marine plastic pollution by focusing on river catchments from source to sea. Around 80% of plastic in the ocean originally comes from rivers, and the Great Ouse catchment (which covers most of Cambridgeshire) is one of the focus areas of the project. By recording data on the types of litter we found, it means we were not only preventing waste from finding its way into watercourses, but also helping the Rivers Trust identify trends and hotspots in waste generation, so that new solutions to the problem of marine plastics can be developed. This links closely to the Sustainability Team’s own ‘Single Out’ campaign which is seeking to identify and reduce single-use wastes across the University.

Having collected data on our litter pick, this also means we know exactly how many bits of plastic we prevented from entering the environment - 506! Mainly, this comprised obvious items (96 crisp and sweet packets, 74 cigarette butts, 61 bottles, 47 shopping bags and 8 face masks), however we also came across some more unusual items – perhaps the oddest was a plastic model of the Eiffel Tower, while two entire bikes were also found, which will be donated to charity.

If you're interested in running a litter pick, contact Peter Lumb for more details and for relevant contacts.

Written by Peter Lumb, Environmental Coordinator