Litter pickers aiming to make a clean sweep across Skye

Jennie Chapman and her husband Mike, accompanied by their dog, Fern, return from another litter-pick patrol in Dunvegan. PHOTO: Willie Urquhart/WHFP

A group of volunteers are aiming to tackle the problem of littering on Skye by charting the nature and quantity of waste found across the island.

Skye Lockdown Litterpick was set up to encourage people to clean up their local area during the tier 4 lockdown from Christmas into the New Year, and to date more than 100 people have become members of the Facebook group.

With the conditions of lockdown now tightened until at least the end of January, Dunvegan resident Jennie Chapman, who set up the group, believes that the virtual community of litter pickers is empowering people on Skye to do their bit individually for a collective cause.

She told the Free Press: “The Facebook group provides a virtual community where anyone living on Skye can get involved in picking up litter in their local area during this — now extended — lockdown period.

“We will then collate all the information about quantities collected and map the areas covered so that we can see an ever growing picture of community involvement in making the island cleaner.

“You will see, on the page announcements, a map that is updated every couple of days at least.” Commenting on the response to the group, she said: “At the time of writing there are 104 members of the group.

“Many of these are people who I am sure have been concerned about this issue for some time and may well have already been regularly picking up litter on walks.

“However, it can feel like a bit of an uphill battle when you do it on your own so this virtual community is so encouraging when you begin to see how many others care and are also wanting to do their part.”

Highlighting the scope of the problem, she added: “We are certainly finding that across the island some of the worst spots for littering include along road verges, especially on the larger roads, around parking areas and lay bys and in popular walking spots.

“The range of things that we are collecting includes absolutely huge numbers of drinks bottles, cans, coffee cups and snack wrappers — especially those thrown from car windows along verges — and random items such as huge builders bags, car exhaust pipes and even dirty nappies and used condoms.”

Addressing the tightened restrictions now in place, Jennie said: “Everyone taking part is doing so either on their own or in accordance with all now further tightened legal requirements for meeting outside — so from now that will be only with one other person at most and remaining at full social distance.

“We have found that two people working to collect from either side of a road verge works well.

“All collections are then reported into the group on Facebook for mapping.

“At the time of writing we have so far logged 71 large bin bags full of rubbish being removed from 32 different locations around the island as well as at least 17 large objects – and we have at least all of January to go!

“You will see from the map that the project has now spread to all four corners of the island.”

While Jennie acknowledges that the group itself is not a stand-alone solution to the issue, she does hope that it might have a positive effect and persuade people to think twice about littering.

She said: “Although this is a short-term project the longer-term issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon so we hope that at least the project raises awareness of the issue.

“And maybe it will encourage some people to take their rubbish home rather than littering the countryside and encourages everyone who takes part in trying to keep their local area clean.

“There are lots of us out there and we are all part of a bigger picture.”