Meet the Litterati: the group cleaning up Bermondsey and Rotherhithe

Kit Heren (12 May, 2021)

Group members say they are happy to volunteer to help clean up their neighbourhoods, but they shouldn’t have to do it

44462Credit: Rachel Bentley

Bermondsey and Rotherhithe residents have begun a new litter-picking campaign, in an effort to clear the streets of rubbish as the country emerges from lockdown and people begin to meet more outside.

The Litterati, who began picking up rubbish over Easter, meet every week. The group has covered areas including Stave Hill Ecological Park, Page’s Walk, the cycle path near Millwall stadium the Den and Surrey Canal Road.

Group members say they are happy to volunteer to help clean up their neighbourhoods, but they shouldn’t have to do it.

“When it’s windy things just fly everywhere,” said group member Rachel Bentley. “And when people see rubbish lying around they feel like they can just drop their own rubbish on the floor. Once norms start to slip then things can get out of control.”

Credit: Rachel Bentley

“I spend a disproportionate amount of my time thinking about rubbish. It’s about human dignity. You see piles and piles of household rubbish lying about. It’s disgusting – people shouldn’t have to live like this.”

Bentley and a friend have plans to bring together tenants’ and residents’ associations to discuss how to tackle the problem proactively.

‘It’s a rubbish tip’ say appalled residents left without refuse and recycling collections since January

“[The council] is good at responding to the initial problem… things get cleared up that are in a very offensive state, but then it soon gets back to how it was before” she said.

“I’ve been witnessing this problem in multiple places. It clearly needs reforming. It encourages rats, and we’re getting foxes.”

Credit: Rachel Bentley

Another Litterati member said on a social media page for the group: “Seeing litter on the streets and in the green spaces used to frustrate me… It still does, but now I feel I can do something practical about it. I am glad I have found others who think and act accordingly too, together we seem to be making a noticeable difference.

“Funnily enough, I actually now enjoy it – I get to walk and exercise whilst doing something I find meaningful and meeting some nice people. What is not to like?”

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