Richmond Park Suffers Seven-Fold Increase In Litter

The Royal Parks collects '20 London buses' of lockdown litter in June alone

Litter at Roehampton Gate

Soaring lockdown littering levels led to an astonishing 42 tonnes of rubbish collected from Richmond Park in June 2020 compared to 5.64T in June 2019. Over the eight Royal Parks in London in June alone 258.4 tonnes of litter was collected - the equivalent in weight of 20 new London buses, or 74 elephants.

It took staff 11,078 hours (the equivalent of 15 months) just to clear the litter left on the grass in the eight parks - in addition to the time spent emptying bins.

The Royal Parks has welcomed increased numbers of visitors to the parks during the peak of the pandemic, providing a boost to physical and mental wellbeing.

However, now groups can gather, park managers have reported never-before-seen levels of littering on the grass every day, including plastic bags, pizza boxes, glass bottles, picnic items and PPE, with trash levels increasing on warm evenings and over sunny weekends.

This is despite increased numbers of bins in place, more frequent emptying to accommodate greater volumes of rubbish, and staff starting sometimes as early as 5am to ensure the parks are pristine when the majority of visitors arrive.

A stag in Richmond Park with an inner tube stuck in its antlers

Plastic waste can get worked into the ground, plastic bags can blow onto waterways harming waterfowl, and wildlife can ingest items causing them pain or even death. Unsightly litter spoils the parks for others and is a strain on the charity’s resources.

In response, The Royal Parks is launching a ‘Summer of Kindness’ campaign, to inspire visitors to care for the 5,000 acres of historic green spaces as we head into the summer holidays and more hot weather is predicted. The campaign carried three simple messages:

• Enjoy the parks – they’re here for you and we want you to have a great time when you visit
• Respect the environment – Please bin litter or take it home and treat the wonderful wildlife, trees and plants within as the wonderful things they are
• Be kind to others – spare a moment to be considerate to other users and share the kindness so that everyone has a great visit

Tom Jarvis, Director of Parks at The Royal Parks, said: “It’s been truly fantastic to see more people enjoying our parks and getting closer to nature for a spot of R&R, to keep fit or to spend time with family and friends in the fresh air. We’ve had lots of really nice messages from people thanking us for keeping the parks open and telling us how the parks have been a lifeline for them, particularly for those without gardens,

“But the downside is the litter. We’ve never seen anything like this before. Every day we wake up to unprecedented levels of litter, with PPE, pizza boxes, plastic bags and picnic scraps strewn all over the grass. And we fear the worst is yet to come, with another spell of hot weather on the way.

“So we’re asking everyone who visits the parks for a bit of help to spread some kindness this summer and help us look after the environment. Binning litter or taking it home will keep the parks beautiful places for everyone to enjoy – and will help ensure that our incredible wildlife continues to thrive and stay safe.”

July 16, 2020