Vomit, urine, nappies and used syringes – cleaning up what other people leave behind is all in a day’s work for South Holland’s street cleansing team.
Then there’s the chewing gum, graffiti and fast food litter and you are soon looking at a gargantuan task for the ten men and women whose shoulders it falls upon to keep the whole district – all 188,000 acres of it – clean and tidy.
Even at 6am on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, they are out in all weathers, sweeping the streets, emptying the bins and cleaning the public toilets, to make our town centres and villages pleasant places for people to work, live and shop.
It’s an uphill struggle and across the country millions of pounds a year is spent tackling litter – in South Holland alone the street cleaning budget is more than half a million.
Coun Roger Gambba-Jones, who is the district council’s portfolio holder for waste management, said: “It’s not just the rubbish you ‘see’. One of our biggest jobs is clearing the litter from the miles and miles of roadside verges.
“When you are going along the A16, for example, at 60mph you probably don’t see all the rubbish left in the laybys.
“One of the main problems is the lorry drivers who practically live in their cabs all week and stop in a layby and dump a week’s worth of rubbish into the overflowing bins.
“Then there is the problem of all the bottles of pee they just chuck out of the window as they go along.
“That is the ‘invisible’ litter and is a huge job for such a small team.”
The “visible” side of the job is the rubbish dumped in more urban areas.
And Coun Gambba-Jones believes we should adopt an approach like Germany where it is ingrained into their pysche for everyone to take responsibility for picking up rubbish.
He said: “They have a different attitude over there and it’s one I wish more people would adopt here.
“It’s a sense of collective responsibility. In Germany it’s a requirement for people to sweep outside their homes and pick up litter.
“Imagine how much better everywhere would look if we all did that.
“Litter creates such a bad impression of place. It says to people that no-one cares about that area and that can be the start of a slippery slope.
“Rubbish attracts rubbish and that attracts a cult of anything goes.
“People see rubbish and think no one cares about this area and obviously no one is watching this area, and that can be a magnet for anti-social behaviour.”
But, how easy is it to tackle the culture of it being OK to drop litter in the street?
The council has placed a number of extra bins around the district, but still some people insist on dropping it right where they stand.
The street cleansing teams have no powers to reproach those they see, but the council’s three environmental wardens do have the powers to impose penalty notices, as do PCSOs.
But they can’t be everywhere at once. So should we, as responsible citizens, tackle those we see dropping rubbish?
Coun Gambba-Jones said: “Although everyone you ask says they do not like to see litter, some of those very same people are often the ones who do it.
“But my advice would be not to tackle someone about it unless you are sure you feel safe.
“You are most likely to be met with a barrage of abuse, or even worse. We have heard of people being assaulted.”
Almost 50 bags collected during Litter Blitz
Residents with a pride in how their area looks were recently invited to take part in a series of Litter Blitz events.
Teams tooks to the parks and streets in seven areas to pick up the rubbish left behind by litter louts.
By the end of the events, the rubbish collected filled a total of 47 bags.
Other discarded stuff which was disposed of included an armchair, half a dining chair, a suitcase and a vacuum cleaner.
With cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles and cardboard and paper the mostpopular items, an estimated 70 per cent of the litter collected was recyclable.
The most popular items lying about were crisp packets and sweet wrappers.
Across the seven venues, 22 people took part – a mix of council staff, councillors and volunteer members of the public.
Two public helpers earned prizes for finding a special bottle dropped as part of the campaign. Annika Kaloczi won a £25 book voucher at the litter-pick near Fulney skate park and John Forrest Thornhill won a £10 WHSmiths voucher at Memorial Park, Sutton Bridge.
Laura Simpkins, the district council’s waste and recycling support officer, said: “We had some pretty poor weather at times so I’m really pleased that people turned out to tidy their communities.
“Thank you to everyone who took part – the amount of rubbish cleared proves that it was a big success.
“The challenge to everyone now is to try and keep those areas as tidy as possible and have pride in them.”
The other venues for the Litter Blitz were Monks House Lane Playing Field in Spalding, Carter’s Park in Holbeach, Snowden Field in Crowland, Cinder Ash Park in Long Sutton, and Flinders Park in Donington.
The nitty-gritty of cleaning our streets
The street cleansing team has three dedicated pieces of equipment.
The Johnson 600 roadsweeper is the big boy of the team, travelling to a specific area – except Spalding town centre – each day to collect large debris.
The compact sweeper is Spalding based and collects small litter, such as cigarette butts and leaves and the applied sweeper is pushed along and is based in Spalding town centre.
As well as litter, the team is responsible for daily cleaning of public toilets in Spalding, Donington, Holbeach, Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge.
The council also works with the police to respond to incidents of graffiti as they occur.
It also has to deal with the eyesore of chewing gum stuck to pavements – the team uses a machine which blasts a sand and water mixture.