Clean your home, the plastic free way

It’s the last day of Plastic Free July and we’ve got five quick and easy plastic swaps you can make when cleaning your house.

After our bathrooms, we reckon that cupboard under the sink where we keep all our cleaning products is the next biggest plastic party, so here are a few of our favourite alternatives.…..

  1. Plastic Free and compostable cloths

Most washing up cloths and sponges contain plastic and have to just be chucked in the bin. But if you do a bit of looking around you will find some great alternatives that come plastic free. There are ones that simply contain no plastic or there are ones that can even be composted. All of them can also be washed so can be used over and over again.

If you can’t find these around town – check out online shops like Boubalou, Plastic Freedom or Turtle Friendly

  • Wooden brushes and metal scour pads

For tougher spots wooden brushes with replaceable heads are a great way to go as there’s no plastic and much less waste. These are available from All Good, The Eco Shop, Harrison and Dunn and Great Casterton Garden Centre. And you can find scour pads that are not cased in two lots of plastic, like many of them are in the supermarket, in the online shops mentioned above.

  • Refill cleaning products

When it comes to the cleaning products themselves, some of the more eco-friendly companies do use recycled plastic bottles (Ecover, Bio-D and Method to name a few), but you can go for refill again. Fill and Miniml both do a brilliant selection of products and they’re available at All Good, Refill Revolution and The Eco Shop. What we particularly love about these two brands is that they reuse the larger plastic containers the refill shops have in store, so there really is a huge reduction in plastic waste.

  • Dissolvable cleaning sachets

If you haven’t tried the small sachets filled with a cleaning detergent concentrate (eg window cleaner or all purpose), they are definitely worth a try. You simply put the sachet in a spray bottle of water, shake it until the whole thing dissolves and you then have a full bottle of whichever cleaning product you chose. No plastic bottle, no plastic packaging. Ocean Saver has a great selection.

  • And finally…..laundry. If you’re looking for some decent alternatives to that big plastic bottle of liquid washing detergent. Again Fill and Miniml have some great options. You could also look at using an Eco Egg – which you just stick in the washing machine and the pellets inside create the detergent. You just have to top up the pellets every so often.

That’s it. Our top 5 cleaning swaps. We hope you give a few a try…..

Don’t think refill shops are for you? Think again….

For many, the weekly shop is full of seemingly unavoidable single use plastic packaging. But with refill shops now well established in Stamford, there is a real alternative. Here, we look at five of the most common barriers to using a refill shop, in the hope it’ll encourage more folk to give them a go.  

  1. I don’t know how it all works

If you’ve not been into a refill shop, you may feel uncomfortable about not knowing what to do. So, here’s our quick and easy guide:

  • Grab some containers or bags from home to take with you (see below for what to take)
  • Hand them over to be weighed at the counter
  • Fill them up with whatever you need – or shop staff will do this for you
  • If you’re unsure of weights or only need a specific amount, just ask for some help
  • Hand your now filled containers over to be weighed
  • Pay

If you check out their social media, Stamford’s local refill shops have little videos of their store and how to refill with them.

2. I don’t know what to bring…..and kilner jars are so heavy!

Whenever you see photos of people’s refill shop purchases they’re displayed in beautiful glass kilner jars….but you  don’t have to take these to the store. Take much lighter items and decant everything when you get home. You can use small glass jam jars, but lighter things like old bread bags, cloth bags (or old pillow cases even!), yoghurt pots, ice cream tubs, take away containers all work brilliantly and are much easier to carry. And if you’ve not got anything with you, the shops all have reusable containers and paper bags for you to use for free.

3. Aren’t they just for vegetarians and vegans?!?

Whether you eat meat and dairy or not, you will find something you love at a refill shop – think of it as your go to place for your every day essentials…from dried goods like pasta and rice, baking ingredients like flour and sugar, herbs and spices and all your cleaning and bathroom products – shower gel, shampoo, conditioner – the lot. It’s not just lentils…..we promise!

4. I don’t have the time

There’s no doubt that a quick online supermarket shop is often the default when it comes to the weekly shop. The great thing with Stamford’s refill stores is that you can order online and either collect in store (they’ll weigh and package everything up for you) or have your order delivered.  But going to a refill shop is actually a really lovely experience in itself – it’s like how shopping should be and makes getting your daily essentials a real joy rather than a chore.

5. It’s more expensive

This is a common misconception. On the whole, refill shops will pitch their prices against local supermarkets – again check out their social media for some really interesting price comparisons.  And because you can buy only the amount you need – this is especially useful with herbs and spices – you reduce your waste and can actually save money.

Can we really go plastic free in the bathroom?

The bathroom is one of the easiest places to find plastic free swaps – here are our top 5 to get you started…..

Shower Gel

The quickest way to cut back on single use plastic in the bathroom is to kick your shower gel habit. There are so many amazing soaps now available without plastic wrapping too – Faith in Nature is one that is readily available in supermarkets and in Silver Lane Health Food shop (and Annabel at All Good Market reminded me about Alter/Native soaps too, available locally). But there are tonnes of independent shops online selling all natural soaps too. Conchus is a favourite.

If you really can’t ditch the shower gel – why not try refill instead. All the refill shops in Stamford (All Good, The Eco Shop and Refill Revolution) all offer shower gel which smells amazing from brands such as Faith in Nature again or try Miniml.

Shampoo & Conditioner

There are now some really good shampoo bars which are super easy to use – just like a bar of soap and they are readily available in supermarkets or even Holland and Barratt on the high street. Eco Warrior shampoo bar is great as are the ones from Ethique. Again you can look online to find independents producing beautiful shampoo (and conditioner) bars.

But if a shampoo bar is a step too far, definitely give refill a go as a very handy alternative to buying new bottles every time. Just take your empty shampoo bottle to a local refill shop and fill it up. Fill do lovely options and they’re made in Northamptonshire. Job done.

Toothpaste & Toothbrushes

Toothpaste tubes – we get through so many of these each year! Instead of buying the plastic ones, you could look at pastes that come in a jar or toothpaste tablets. There are plenty of online stores that stock these (and lots of other plastic free items). Or if you’re just heading to the supermarket you could try euthymol which comes in a recyclable aluminium tube.

Bamboo and recycled plastic toothbrushes are now available all over the place. If you prefer an electric toothbrush there are now options here versus having to chuck out the plastic head. There are ones made of bamboo from LiveCoco that are worth a try.


If you haven’t already, why not give a metal safety razor a go. They’re an expensive outlay but they last a lifetime and perform really well. Plastic Freedom have a good range….

And finally….loo roll

And finally, there’s toilet roll. Why all brands feel the need to wrap the loo roll in plastic bags is beyond me, but they do….however, again there are options. You can buy in bulk and have toilet roll delivered to you in a box without any plastic. If this is not an option (storage may be an issue or the cost), there are companies like Green Cane that use wrappers that can be recycled for the 4 packs of toilet roll. The Eco Shop sells them or you could go in with friend and order a big box of them.

Cakes+co: Sustainability has never looked – or tasted – so good

Cakes+co is a real gem of a place. Nestled into a corner of Stamford Walk, it may look unassuming, but step inside and you’re treated to some of the most beautiful and delicious cakes around. Not only that, Cakes+co are also flying the flag for plastic free, sustainable business practices. What’s not to love?

The cakery recently became one of Stamford’s growing number of Plastic Free Champions by removing unnecessary single use plastic from their shop and café. We caught up with them to find out a bit more about their plastic free journey. 

As owner and baker, Stewart West explains, “Going plastic free was not only important to us personally, but our business model was always going to be one that put sustainability and earth kind measures first.”

The changes have seen them minimise their need for single use plastics, now only serving drinks in glasses, cans or paper cartons and using compostable take away coffee cups and lids (made with compostable bioplastic derived from plant sugars from reclaimed sugarcane). They use paper bags and card boxes and even have their own organic growing garden for healthy, seasonal produce and edible flowers, where there is no need for any packaging at all. 

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed. “We know that our lovely customers in Stamford really appreciate and support our ethos. We have had many suggestions as well as plenty of encouragement along our plastic free journey,” explains Stewart. And this has undoubtedly given them the motivation to continue to make changes to improve the way they do things. They are now constantly reviewing the materials and produce they use, looking out for plastic free suppliers and inspiring customers to reduce, reuse and recycle as well. 

As a local Plastic Free Champion, they also have a couple of tips for other businesses looking to reduce their single use plastic. First up, do an audit of the materials and products you use and plan just one or two changes, so that the shift doesn’t seem overwhelming. It’s about being realistic and then getting into the swing of it. But importantly, they recommend telling people around you what you’re doing so that they can support you and keep you motivated. 

As ethical traders it is our duty to look to reduce the use of plastics wherever possible. Take a look at what plastics you use and see if there are alternatives, make one change, then another. Sometimes the cost of going plastic free can seem ‘expensive’ especially to small independent businesses and it is, but what’s the true price of not making the change? We have a planet to protect for now and for everyone’s future.” Stewart, we could not have put it better ourselves. 


Reimagining the way we shop for everyday essentials

This week PFS is catching up with one of our most recent Plastic Free Champions, Michelle Martell from The Eco Shop, a newly opened refill shop just outside Stamford in Great Casterton. Here you’ll find a wide range of household essentials from dry foods and snacks to cleaning products and bathroom favourites, but without having to overload on plastic.

The Eco Shop is anything but your standard local store and Michelle is working hard to make refill shopping accessible to everyone…..

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to focus on opening a refill shop and going plastic free? 

Michelle Martell: I noticed Stamford had no options for people to refill on products and reduce plastic waste*. My motivation was around the oceans, the pollution and waste of single use plastic, that is not necessary but significantly damages our world – polluting our oceans, land and harming wildlife.

PFS: Can you tell us a bit about what people can expect from coming to your shop?

MM: They can expect a friendly personal shopping experience, with plastic free, quality products that have not been stored in a supermarket for a long time. I stock sustainable products where possible, that are vegan, cruelty free and with no nasty chemicals.

PFS: And how do people shop with you?

MM: Customers can order online and choose a slot to visit to fulfil their orders, or message me directly to book. Since lock down has lifted, customers are now able to visit after 1pm on Tuesdays and Fridays without appointments. You simply bring your clean containers – ice cream tubs, jam jars, margarine tubs, anything you already have at home, you can bring – and I do the rest. You can even leave containers with me to sort while you get on with your day. You then pay on fulfillment and collection of the order.

PFS: What about the bulk packaging you have – can you tell us a bit more about this?

MM: Most products come in FCS approved packaging that can be recycled, or is naturally biodegradable. Some items do come in plastic, but my wholesaler will take these back and recycle. Some other products are on a closed loop system, so they reuse the containers over and over again.

PFS: Are your products more expensive than in regular supermarkets? 

MM: No, they are comparable with Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco and if I can sell the products cheaper I do. My aim is to reduce plastic waste and make it affordable for all.

PFS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to people using a refill shop and how can you help them overcome this? 

MM: People feel overwhelmed, not sure what to bring package wise or how it works. I advise people to bring plenty of containers and I will do the rest. During their first visit I explain the process and hopefully make them feel at ease about it.

PFS: What has been the most challenging thing about setting up The Eco Shop? 

MM: My location and people finding me. I use social media a lot to promote my business as people will not naturally come across me as I am not in town, so keep an eye on social for updates!

PFS: And the best thing?

MM: The support I have received from customers, my family and friends. Most importantly, my recycling bin is so much lighter now and it’s great that people are really showing an interest in reducing waste.

*Stamford is incredibly lucky in that it now has three refill options – joining The Eco Shop, Refill Revolution offers a local refill delivery only service and ALL GOOD on St Paul’s Street has also recently opened. Each has their own distinct selection of products and unique selling points – they are all of course Plastic Free Champions.


Blind corners: the litter pickers’ nemesis

Neil McIvor set up Pride of Stamford litter pickers over six years ago and it’s safe to say that in that time he’s learnt a thing or two about what makes Brits toss their rubbish. With much of the litter comprising single use plastic – water bottles, coffee cups, sandwich packs – Plastic Free Stamford caught up with him to find out more.

“Blind corners are the worst. You find the most litter on the blind corners because [drivers] know that no one can see them in either direction. They wind down their window, they’re looking in their mirror and they know no one can see them…..Boom! Out it goes.”

Neil also highlights disused and unloved areas of town – those little corners that are overgrown that we all just turn a blind eye to. They too become litter hotspots.

“Ivy for example attracts litter,” he explains. “Where do people leave their litter? They shove it in the ivy or the overgrown bushes where they think no one can see it.” And this is why Neil has his sites on clearing up these unloved spaces with his latest initiative, Team Stamford.

“Behind that grot spot is something beautiful”

Using his skills and materials from his day job along with a crack team of volunteers, Team Stamford go to the disused parts of town and derelict buildings, grot spots as Neil calls them, to tidy them up.

Most recently they cleared the verges up on North Street and planted swathes of wildflower seeds – excitingly, the shoots are just starting to show. While another project saw them clear the bank of the Welland at the cattle market car park, opposite the meadows – the photo above is the view from the bench. For over 20 years it has been left unattended and unloved. Now, with some hard graft, the team has opened up the space so that you can see the beautiful trees. They’ve also installed a hand made cherry wood bench encouraging people to sit for a moment and appreciate one of the best views of Stamford.

By clearing overgrown patches of scrub land, Team Stamford are creating new local beauty spots and if something looks pretty, people are less likely to treat it badly. They respect it more.

“The aim is to clear up grot spots. You may not see them, you may just walk past but behind that grot spot is something beautiful, something fantastic, amazing. And if you clean it up, make it look nice, people are less likely to leave their rubbish there.”

“People who didn’t litter before, will now litter”

But he believes that the pandemic has made his job far harder as it has lead to a huge rise in the number of people willing to litter.

“What we have found is that living with these more stringent rules, people who didn’t litter before, do now litter. It starts with fly tipping. People who didn’t used to fly tip will now fly tip – they wouldn’t break the rules in normal times but with all the new restrictions people have started to care less about playing by the rules and just toss things anywhere.”

That, coupled with the fact that recycling centres were harder to access, meant people were increasingly heading out to the country lanes to get rid of their rubbish. 

“And this then quickly turns to day to day littering,” explains Neil. “That plastic crisp packet – where before they might have put it in the bin, now it just goes on the floor. It’s a slippery slope.”

“People should have pride in Stamford”

But Neil does at least have rave reviews for our local council, SKDC. “If I find a fly tip, I can take a photo and send it to them, within just a few hours it’s gone. We have a really good relationship with them. Many other litter picking groups elsewhere around the country don’t have this, so we’re lucky.”

“People should have pride in Stamford. All little towns should have pride in their own areas. Everyone should have pride in their own surroundings and everyone should be responsible for their own surroundings. I want to keep the town looking beautiful, keep the punters rolling in and keep everyone happy,” Neil explains. “I love the history. I love the ambience. I love the flowers. I’ve billed myself as the Stamford caretaker. No one does the job. No one mediates between all the agencies. SKDC, town council, Stamford in bloom, Shop Stamford. I could do it.” Surely, this is a no brainer. Neil gets my vote every time.


Inspiring positive change in the home fragrance market and beyond

This week, Plastic Free Stamford caught up with Beth Pattison, from one of our local Plastic Free Champions, Freckleface Home Fragrance. Situated on the corner of Red Lion Square opposite All Saints Church, Freckleface make and sell their handmade vegan, environmentally friendly wax melts, candles, diffusers and bath products.

They are a family run business with a keen focus on sustainability, so we decided to find out more about their commitment to going plastic free and the positive impact it has had on their business…..

Plastic Free Stamford: We would love to know a bit more about why going plastic free was so important to you.

Beth Pattinson: We want to help create a more sustainable industry and help improve the future of our planet. Every day you hear about how we are damaging the world we live in and plastic plays a huge role within this. Plastic now seems like an obsolete material to use within our industry, and we hope we inspire other companies to do the same – after all we only have one world, and we need to look after it! 

PFS: How has going plastic free improved your business?

BP: For us, being plastic free was always going to be part of our ethics as a business. We want to build a business that is ethical and that we can be proud of. Being sustainable has always been important to us and even more so now we produce home fragrance in such large quantities. Our customers and stockists are also so much more aware of the damage that plastic is doing to the world, so they are looking for sustainable brands, so it’s a no brainer for us to improve our business and the planet at the same time.

PFS: What are your next steps on your plastic free journey?

BP: We want to continue to support our customers and other businesses in becoming more sustainable and plastic free. We are planning to offer easily accessible advice across our social media platforms and in store, as well as promoting other companies who have the same ethos as us. Long term, we are encouraging our staff to live more plastic free lives outside of work and we only want to engage with suppliers who share our values. 

PFS: How have people responded to your plastic free changes?

BP: The response has been overwhelmingly positive! The attitude towards plastic free living and sustainability is becoming more of a core value in many people’s lives and they love the fact Freckleface is playing a part in this. People appreciate the effort we have put in and as result it has attracted more customers to our brand.  

PFS: What would you say to other businesses out there about going plastic free?

BP: Going plastic free is one of the most rewarding experiences to do as a company. In business, we all have a moral responsibility to help ensure we are creating a better future for everyone and going plastic free is a great way to do this. Plastic free living is becoming the social norm and your business can play a key role in this change in attitude. 

PFS: What are your 3 top tips for going plastic free?

BP: 1.    Do your research – find out what companies and suppliers offer plastic free services, learn from others, and implement into your own business. 

2.    Start small- going completely plastic free does not happen overnight. Starting small can lead to big changes. Even simply switching to paper bags from plastic can make a huge difference for the environment.

3.    Ask for help- you are not alone! We are more than happy to help and advise any business who wants to become plastic free and there are lots of free resources out there now.


All Good Market

Helping Stamford stock up on staples plastic free

This week PFS took some time out to catch up with local Plastic Free Champion, Annabel Britton from ALL GOOD Market on St Paul’s Street – a lovely refill shop that also sells a wide range of local produce. ALL GOOD gives you the opportunity to stock up on a wide range of staples – pasta, rice, flour, herbs and spices, dried fruit, even washing up liquid and shower gel, while massively reducing the need for single use packaging.

Starting a new venture during a global pandemic is no mean feat, but with such a clear focus on reducing single use plastic, we couldn’t help but want to find out more….

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about why you started your refill business and what motivated you to focus on helping others reduce their single use packaging?

Annabel Britton: After graduating uni, I lived in Paris and used a zero waste shop there, which was brilliant. I came home for lockdown and started to notice how much more packaging waste we produced as a family, compared to how I had been living. However, there wasn’t a shop local to us where we could buy refills. I felt this was a glaring gap in the market in Stamford and a quick survey posted on Facebook confirmed my suspicions.*

PFS: So what can people expect from a trip to ALL GOOD and how does it all work?

AB: I look to offer a really personalised service and an enjoyable shopping experience – this is not like going to the supermarket! Usually until a customer is a regular, I serve them or help them and tend to ‘walk people through it’ to begin with. I’m there to help, so there’s no need to worry about what not having shopped in a refill shop before.

PFS: And what should people bring?

AB: Any bags or containers they can remember. They don’t need to be pretty Kilner jars – you can bring old bread bags, egg boxes, takeaway containers, gin bottles… the best thing I’ve refilled so far was the plastic packaging of an Easter egg. I do also have paper bags and sterilised containers which people are welcome to take for free.

PFS: What packaging do your products come in and what happens to it?

AB: Good question! I will answer with full transparency. It pretty much falls into three camps.

For eggs, coffee, oils, cleaning products, milk, tea and kimchi, any packaging is returned to the supplier to be reused, so it’s a completely closed-loop system.

For dried products (rice, oats, flour, etc.) I am saving the sacks and have grand plans to upcycle them. Don’t want to give the game away!

Spices, nuts, dried fruit and some seeds come in plastic packaging which isn’t recyclable. This is regrettable but mostly necessary to preserve the quality. However, I think that one 5kg bag of cashew nuts is preferable to 20 250g bags.

PFS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to people using a refill shop and how can you help them overcome this?

AB: From my customers, I perceive the biggest barrier being a lack of time. A lot of people have so much on their plate – this year more than ever – and remembering to bring containers, or go to more than one shop to buy food, is a bit too much to ask sometimes. This is part of the reason I offer delivery, I really want to reach as many people as possible. 

PFS: Tell us a bit about your mission to champion local producers and why this is so important.

AB: It dawned on me that we live in a part of the country which is almost defined by agriculture. Perhaps this is particularly immediate to me because it is my Dad’s career. But I just thought it’s completely doolally that a farmer could produce eggs or potatoes or milk locally, and sell them to Tesco, and they end up being sold in Carlisle. And then a farmer in Cumbria producing the same thing might sell their’s to Waitrose and they end up in the Stamford branch. It’s just nonsensical.

PFS: What has been the best thing about setting up on your own?

AB: The best thing is having complete control! The shop is such a creative outlet and if I want to post something on Instagram, sell a gingerbread kit or launch a delivery service, I don’t have to consult anyone. I can put my ideas into action as quickly as I want.

PFS: And finally, what’s next for ALL GOOD? Any exciting plans and ideas up your sleeve?

AB: Since Christmas I’ve launched a lot of new products, a delivery service and takeaway filter coffee with locally produced Two Chimps coffee, but my focus now is on trying to improve the existing website and doing lots of marketing as ever.

*Stamford is incredibly lucky in that it now has three refill options – joining ALL GOOD, Refill Revolution offers a local refill delivery only service and the Eco Shop at Great Casterton has also recently opened. Each has their own distinct selection of products and unique selling points – they are all of course Plastic Free Champions.

Plastic Free Stamford’s top five easy plastic swaps

Over this past year, single use plastic has been even more of a feature of our every day lives. As the country starts to re-emerge from lockdown restrictions, here are our five quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to reduce the amount of single use plastic you use when you’re out and about:  

1. A reusable cup

Available pretty much everywhere, reusable cups for your on the go coffees and teas are a quick, easy and relatively cheap way to reduce your single use plastic. If you think about the coffee you grab on the way to work or after the school run and then one as a treat in the afternoon, you’re quickly looking at 40 cups a month that just sit in landfill.

And with many cafes offering discounts for bringing your own cup, you could quickly save enough to pay for the reusable cup!

2. A water bottle

This doesn’t have to be a swanky rose gold metal drinks bottle – it could just be the take out water bottle you bought the other day refilled again and again. With many places offering to fill water bottles with tap water for free (once restrictions have lifted they will be able to do this again), you could again save yourself a load of money as well as saving the planet.

3.  A shopping bag

Many of us do this already – certainly since the charge for bags came in, but making sure we always have one to hand when we head out will mean those last minute impulse buys will not involve single use plastic. 

4. A couple of old bread bags

If you have a few small bags tucked away, you will be surprised how often you use them – your breakfast croissant from the café or supermarket doesn’t need to go into a single use plastic (or paper) bag. Or grabbing some fruit and veg from the market stall as you go past – use these. You can use small cloth bags that are readily available but a few old plastic bread bags will do the trick just as well – reusing what you have is always a win!

5. Snacks from home

If you have kids, you’ll know that as soon as you step out the door, you’ll be hounded for snack, after snack, after snack. The costs can add up and so can the litter. Trying filling a tupperware with a few biscuits or homemade popcorn before you go – this will be so much better than single serving packs.

If you can remember one, two or even all five of the above each time you head out, you will be making a massive difference to the amount of single use plastic we get through.


Humans can’t use bins

“Humans can’t use bins. You can have a million bins and they will still put rubbish next to the bin or just leave it. You can train a monkey to use a bin. You can train a bird to use a bin. But you can’t train humans to use a bin. The annoyance, the laziness, the fact that someone else will do it. And the fact that they just do not care,” so laments local legend and Stamford super fan, Neil McIvor at our recent catch up.

Neil is the founder of Pride of Stamford litter pickers. Instantly recognisable in his bright orange ex-RAC van, he and his team of volunteer litter pickers work tirelessly with local council workers to keep our town rubbish free.

“Half a century in the great outdoors has done nothing to degrade this piece of plastic”

He arrives for our chat in his trademark orange hoody, brandishing a favourite find in his hand – his trophy he calls it. It’s a plastic bottle he has had dated back to the late 60s. Dug up on one of his many litter picks, it looks good as new, bar a bit of mud. Half a century in the great outdoors has done nothing to degrade this piece of plastic – a powerful and depressing reminder of the longevity of single use plastic.

So if bins aren’t the answer to our litter problems, what is? Well, when it comes to plastic bottles, he has a plan. “We need a proper recycling scheme,” he explains. “We need to give 20p on every bottle to make it worthwhile for people to take it back. People would walk the streets taking them back too. Every plastic bottle. 20 pence. Not 5p. Not 10p. Not 7.5p. 20p.” It seems simple enough – they do it across Europe after all, but for some reason the UK government is loathed to do it. For now at least, in our local area we have to rely on the Pride of Stamford team. And with lockdown restrictions being lifted today, we’ll need them now more than ever, if Neil’s experience is anything to go by.

“There’s going to be a Tsunami of litter”

“When lockdown finishes, there’s going to be a tsunami of litter. It’s going to be insane,” Neil says. “We’ve got a perfect storm coming. With pubs not being open, beer gardens are open and you’ve got limited capacity with people still wanting to go out and drink. Last time, you had adults, children and teenagers all milling around on the meadows. The older ones had their plastic cups from the pub that they would just toss away – they’d had a few drinks and didn’t care. The kids would see the older generations leaving their rubbish and they would do the same. They would all just get up and walk away, make no effort to clean up.”

“People have been locked up. I understand that. They are going to want to let their hair down. I understand that completely. But it can be done responsibly. Put your rubbish in the bag you bought your stuff in. Put it in the bin. And if the bin is full, just tie the handle up and leave it by the bin, recycling your bag for your rubbish.”

This certainly seems like something we could all do when we’re next out for that oh so precious socially distanced drink with friends. And to put quantities into context, there have been days when, for example Neil, his team and council workers have collected 80 – 90 bags of rubbish from the meadows, rec and skate park alone. Yes, 90 bags of rubbish left on a single day. We can do better.

There’s no doubt that lockdown has brought its own challenges when it comes to single use plastic. Obviously the use of throw away masks and gloves have sky rocketed but it’s take away coffee cups that get the most air time from Neil.

“The litter pickers at Burghley have seen coffee cups go through the roof”

“Coffee cups – I’m afraid with the coffee shops shut, you’ve got the wanderers, the jugglers who go off to Burghley and the litter pickers at Burghley have seen coffee cups go through the roof. It’s insane. The plastic cap just never degrades and the cup just turns into a plastic mush that never degrades,” Neil explains.

But the problems don’t stop there. These coffee cups fill our bins to overflowing, taking up precious bin space and giving people yet another excuse to simply toss unwanted plastic on the floor. Crushing the cup and taking the caps off any empty plastic bottles you have before you put them in the bin is a simple way we can all help make a contribution to keeping our town clean.

Neil does then concede that it is not all doom and gloom. Thank goodness. With lockdown restrictions people have been getting out and walking more and as a result are seeing the litter problem first hand. Neil has been inundated with messages from people wanting to get involved, wanting to help make a difference, which is a huge step in the right direction.

One surprising benefit of lockdown has been the number of youngsters getting involved as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. With few other community-based projects available, many D of E-ers have turned to Neil and have enjoyed it so much, they’ve got their friends to join too. Neil also runs Mini Ninjas, taking youngsters to the rec to litter pick – he bills it a treasure hunt and they have a brilliant time. A new generation of Pride of Stamford litter pickers are taking up the reigns – long may it continue.

If you’d like to get involved with Pride of Stamford, they organise litter picks on the last Sunday of every month. Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Next time we’ll hear more from Neil about local litter hotspots and his latest venture to combat problem areas, Team Stamford.