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Meet the group cleaning Ealing and saving Ealing Council nearly £300,000 a year

Earlier this month, Ealing Council revealed that its in-house environmental services company Greener Ealing Limited (GEL) has been keeping the borough in tip top shape since July 6 2020 when it took over from the previous provider Amey.

Its success, which has seen compliments rise and complaints drop, comes as Litter Action Group for Ealing Residents (LAGER Can) celebrates three years of huge growth as its volunteer army has amassed to 2,000 members from all across Ealing and are helping to clean up the borough.

Cathy Swift, chair of LAGER Can said: “Happily for LAGER Can, the award of GEL’s first contract coincided with a huge increase in our own activity, which started in June 2020 with a series of cleanups at Warren Farm. At that time we had just 375 members. Right from the start we found our partners at Ealing Council and GEL incredibly supportive. Today we have well over 2,000 members.”

According to LAGER Can’s records in the 30 months since they started recording their activity they have donated 40,906 volunteer-hours and collected a staggering 87,371 bags’ worth of litter, recyclables, leaves and large, unbaggable items.

Earlier this year, in attending a March 2023 Westminster Hall Support for Litter Picking Groups debate called by Ealing South MP, Virendra Sharma, LAGER Can revealed that its volunteers had donated £282,000 worth of labour in 2022 alone.

Trustee Jo Bennett postbox toppers raise awareness of LAGER Can
Trustee Jo Bennett postbox toppers raise awareness of LAGER Can

LAGER Can trustee Jo Bennett, whose colourful postbox toppers have served the dual purpose of raising awareness of LAGER Can and brightening up the borough, commented: “We know that many members do not log their work, so these numbers should be seen as low estimates. We have forged excellent relationships with GEL management and operatives, and the Ealing Council officers who manage the contract. Without such great support we simply would not have been able to achieve these results.”

GEL’s managing director, Kevin O’Leary has commented on the partnership between the company and the volunteers. “Greener Ealing has been delighted to work with LAGER Can since taking over the Environmental Services contract for Ealing Council in 2020. We have been amazed by the effort and dedication shown by the LAGER Can volunteers and have done our best to keep up with them, providing support whenever we can. They really are an example to others, showing what can be done.”

Chris Bunting, assistant director for leisure at Ealing Council said: “Every council in London would love to partner with an organisation as incredible as LAGER Can. I am astounded by the continued level of commitment and pride that the volunteers have. They take responsibility and go above and beyond, and they are a thousand eyes and ears on the ground. They promote change in the system and are a wonderful resource with vision and leadership.”

Earl McKenzie, assistant director, streets and direct services at Ealing Council commented on the example of “community ownership” shown. Mr McKenzie said: “As a Council, we have some extremely challenging objectives in relation to environmental management. The support provided by LAGER Can volunteers since the lockdown has been invaluable in helping to raise awareness, resolving some historic problems through local knowledge, and providing intelligence to support targeted enforcement. A fantastic example of community ownership of environmental stewardship and productive partnership working with the Council.”

LAGER Can members are also actively engaged to change the behaviours that lead to littering and flytipping. They have helped residents acquire wheelie bins, create posters aimed at encouraging the correct disposal of rubbish and being available to support initiatives to reduce littering and flytipping.

Pupils from Khalsa Primary School removing rubbish with LAGER Can
Pupils from Khalsa Primary School removing rubbish with LAGER Can

In Southall, Khalsa Primary School’s assistant headteacher, Sean Formella said: “We have been working with volunteers from LAGER Can to help teach our children about the importance of looking after their local areas and green spaces. Our children love taking part in weekly litter picking and are learning lessons which they can pass on to their families.”

LAGER Can chair Ms Swift added that it is always keen to work with and support schools. “We are very keen to engage with young people, and were delighted when Khalsa Primary School won Keep Britain Tidy’s Young Litter Heroes award 2023. We’re optimistic that St Anselm’s and St Mary’s Primary Schools, both of whom have committed to regular litter picking with LAGER Can support, will be similarly honoured in the future, and we’re delighted with the recent appointment of our outreach officer, Amanda Fitzroy, who will be doing her best to encourage other schools to join.”

LAGER Can’s Duke of Edinburgh co-ordinator, Sadaf Maruf commanted: “LAGER Can’s D of E programme started with a handful of teenage girls who couldn’t find a place to volunteer during the pandemic. Since Sept 2020 it has helped 206 students in the Borough of Ealing and as far away as Edinburgh and Looe in Cornwall, spreading the word of its activities through social media.”

Members have made a special effort during Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean during the past three years, cleaning every street in Southall in 2021, Northolt in 2022 and Greenford in 2023.

But, for LAGER Can, rubbish removal is something not just once or twice a week, it’s a daily activity.

Jacquie de Bidaph, another LAGER Can trustee said: “We were pleased that volunteering was so widely promoted as part of the Coronation celebrations. Local authorities around the country are struggling to meet the demands on their overstretched budgets. We care for the environment and choose to be part of the solution to littering and flytipping rather than getting upset about it.”

LAGER Can removing rubbish from River Brent
LAGER Can removing rubbish from River Brent

In March 2021 LAGER Can and their partner group Clean Up the River Brent (CURB) were accredited by Thames 21 as River Action Groups, and have worked together since to remove up to 100 tonnes of rubbish from the River Brent and its banks in the London Boroughs of Brent, Barnet and Ealing This effort has seen many members sporting waders and learning to canoe in order to get to the rubbish.

CURB’s Ben Morris welcomes the support his group gets from the Ealing volunteers. Mr Morris said: “LAGER Can’s contribution to cleaning up the River Brent has been both inspiring and incredibly effective. We have been so lucky to form such a productive partnership with their incredible volunteers.”

Ms Swift offered her thoughts on why rubbish is around and what can be done to tackle it.  She said: “Sadly, rubbish is everywhere. There are many reasons for this, and each cause requires a different solution. The massive growth in out-of-home food and drink consumption has not been matched by a corresponding growth in ‘binfrastructure’.

“The conversion of single properties into homes of multiple occupation (HMOs) has led to a massive increase in the rubbish generated, and some properties have nowhere to store it.

“Access to the one remaining tip in the Borough is challenging for some residents, and Ealing Council’s bulk waste collection service is not always good value. And then there is the careless minority who will litter and flytip no matter what you do to help them. But we believe it should be made as easy and inexpensive as possible to get rid of your waste responsibly. In the meantime we will carry on doing what we can to make Ealing greener and cleaner.”

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