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Celebrating the New Forest Spring Clean and tackling unintentional littering

Celebrating the New Forest Spring Clean and tackling unintentional littering

Joint press release:
The New Forest Spring Clean ran from 25 March to 10 April this year and saw local litter heroes across the New Forest helping to protect the environment. 

The New Forest Spring Clean is a joint initiative between ourselves, Forestry England, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, National Trust and the Verderers of the New Forest.

Cllr David Russell, New Forest District Council portfolio holder for people and places, said: ‘Alongside our partners, we want to say a big thank you to everyone who took part in the New Forest Spring Clean this year, and to volunteers who help protect our Forest and keep it litter free all year round.

‘We’re proud to have supported local events attended by over 600 volunteers, collecting roughly 320 bags between them. We’re also grateful for our staff who have worked hard supplying local volunteers with litter-picking equipment, collecting litter, and helping to keep the district clean and tidy.’

Carole-Anne Tonks who took part in the New Forest Spring Clean with her nine-year-old twins Dexter and Harley said: ‘The boys love being New Forest Ambassadors and we litter pick as a family whenever we can. We wanted to get involved with the New Forest Spring Clean and we managed to get out for another litter pick, complete with Easter bunny ears.’

Tackling unintentional littering

Following the New Forest Spring Clean, Forest organisations are reminding people of the detrimental effect litter has on the New Forest environment and wildlife.

Litter can be anything from abandoned balloons to food left lying in an open or public place. Our staff and staff from Forestry England and New Forest District Council regularly find these items discarded on the Forest.

It may seem kind to leave food out for livestock and wildlife, but this can cause harm or even death. Feeding ponies is against New Forest byelaws and leaving them human food, or even things like carrots, causes serious issues in the New Forest. Human food can easily choke livestock and give the ponies colic (bad stomach ache) which is very painful and can be deadly. Surprisingly, orange peel and banana skins can take up to two years to decompose, and vermin populations have increased to 60 million in the UK due to the increasing amounts of food litter left on our streets and in the countryside.

Releasing balloons into the sky as part of a celebration sounds like a nice idea, but it can be tragic for wildlife and livestock. Balloons can get stuck in foliage, or drift into oceans and waterways – and can end up in the intestines of animals and fish. Balloons, like plastic bags, can take between 10 and 20 years to completely degrade, creating micro-plastics which birds then feed to their young. Additionally, scientists from Cardiff University, the University of Exeter and the Greenpeace Research Laboratories found that birds along Britain’s rivers are ingesting hundreds of fragments of micro plastics daily because the worms and insects they feast on have also swallowed the plastics.

Charlotte Lines, Chair of the Commoners Defence Association said: ‘Now spring has sprung, we would urge residents of the New Forest not to put out any type of garden foliage clippings, including grass for our animals. They are poisonous and could have serious consequences. Our animals have an array of natural food to graze on including, gorse, brambles, heather, holly, bluebells and grass along our river lawns, and they play a vital service in shaping the forest landscape we see today.’

According to research from Keep Britain Tidy, dog waste is the issue the public are most concerned about. Nine out of 10 dog owners clean up after their dog, but 10 per cent still need to change their behaviour to help protect wildlife and the environment.

The New Forest is a very popular place for dog walkers, but sadly, because some owners don’t pick up after their dogs, waste is left on the open Forest and is unsightly around many popular car parks. Discarded poo bags are equally dangerous and can cause the death of livestock on the Forest as well as adding to litter problems.

Heather Gould, Chair of the New Forest Dog Owners Group, said: ‘Most dog owners are responsible, and pick up dog poo, and take it home. But the minority who don’t affect the reputation of us all. Dog poo isn’t nice, and the Forest should be kept well for the enjoyment of all. It’s also important not just to pick up and bag dog poo, but to take the bags to the nearest waste bin, or home.’

Cigarettes are the most common form of litter on the planet, with around 122 tons of cigarette butts and cigarette-related litter dropped every day across the UK. Cigarette filters are made from a type of plastic and can take 10 years or more to break down, with cigarettes themselves filled with toxic chemicals which are harmful to wildlife as well as humans.

Stephen Green from the New Forest Litter Pickers said: ‘I started the New Forest Litter Pickers group two years ago to show the impact being caused to the environment and Forest animals. We now have 1,600 members and volunteers. It’s such a shame volunteers have to spend time cleaning up after those who either don’t follow the forest rules or don’t care about the environment, it’s a daily effort in some spots.

‘Plastic doesn’t go away; it stays in our environment for years passing the problem down from generation to generation. We like to think that if everyone does a small part by owning their own impact, following the New Forest Code and taking their litter home, we can achieve even more and help future generations enjoy the beautiful spots the New Forest has to offer.’

New Forest District Council can lend equipment all year round for groups of up to 30 volunteers, including litter grabbers and hi-vis jackets, for organised litter picking events. They will also supply rubbish sacks and arrange to collect the waste after the litter pick. As much waste as possible will be recycled.

Families and individuals can also get free litter picking equipment and advice on their clean up when they sign up as a New Forest Ambassador with the New Forest National Park Authority.

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