Soaring lockdown littering levels led to an astonishing 258.4* tonnes of rubbish collected from London’s eight Royal Parks in June alone – the equivalent in weight of 20** new London buses, or 74 elephants.
This represents an increase of 32% compared with June 2019.
And it took staff 11,078*** hours (the equivalent of 15 months) just to clear the litter left on the grass – 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 – there was even some office furniture and a Christmas Tree left in Kensington Gardens – 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.
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.
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.”
*Tonnes of rubbish collected across Royal Parks.
|Park||June 2019||June 2020||Difference between June 2020 and June 2019|
|St James’s Park and The Green Park||48.70T||23.72T||-24.98T|
There have been fewer visitors to the park due to less office workers and tourists visiting
|The Regent’s Park||59.76T||58.94T||-.0.82T Despite the cancellation of events, the Open Air theatre and sporting activities the park has been very busy and seen only a slight drop in the volume of waste left in the park.|
**Comparison is based on an average female elephant weighing 3.5 tonnes/ Based on a new London bus weighing 12.65 tonnes.
***Staff hours spent litter picking in June 2020:
St James’s and The Green Park: 1,660
Richmond Park 1,200 (supported by trained volunteers from the Friends of Richmond Park.)
The Regent’s Park:1,853
Hyde Park: 2,897
Bushy Park: 685
Greenwich Park: 1,000
Kensington Gardens: 1,783