West Lothian Litter Pickers – How I got involved
A blog post by Jim Allan
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As we approach the launch of our Spring Clean Scotland campaign on 21 March, we invited litter pickers to tell us why they got involved in community action to tackle litter in their area. Jim from West Lothian Litter Pickers tells us his story.
It was winter 2019 and I was out for a drive in the car, and I saw two people behind a van at the Half Loaf Pond in Bathgate, and my initial thoughts were they were at it again – fly-tipping – but no they had a sign up saying West Lothian Litter Pickers, so I stopped to ask them what they were doing, and they said they were a group of likeminded people from West Lothian who had banded together on Facebook and they go out and litter pick in areas that are known hot spots for litter, like the Half Loaf pond, where there is a layby where people park up to eat and drink and just throw their litter out of their windows when they are finished, or as they drive past.
Well, I thought I want to be a part of that, because litter is one of my biggest bugbears as I literally see it everywhere I go. Even as a keen hillwalker I see it out in the middle of nowhere and I just don’t get it. Why would you carry something that’s full and once you’ve emptied it just chuck it away – really? I’ve had so many rants and raves when I’m out on the hills and some of the words I use are not for publication here. I’m sure you’ll understand!
Right, I’m in, how do I join I asked? Just go onto our West Lothian Litter Pickers (Act Local, Think Global) Facebook Group they said, and you will see what we do and where we go. They even said that they do organised Group Picks most weekends, and I would see these as an event on Facebook where I could click on the link to say I was going. Great idea I thought, so my first group pick was at Old Bangour Hospital at Dechmont in West Lothian on the 12 January 2020, and I seem to remember we collected over 40 bags of litter and a whole load of stuff that couldn’t be bagged, like bits of cars, old road signs, and stuff that had been fly-tipped.
I was so impressed with the work this group achieved. There were maybe 20 people involved of all ages and abilities. I was buzzing and even though I was picking up other people’s litter I still got so motivated by it, so without further ado I was a fully fledged member of the group and made a point of chatting with some of the people I got introduced to, who were in the admin team.
Digging a wee bit deeper I ended up speaking to the founder of the group, Jason Wilcox, who lived in Bathgate, like me. He was so passionate about the group and their aims, and his biggest bugbear was litter, again like me. I’d found my place at last.
Jason introduced me to the other admins and told me that the next pick was the following weekend in Wester Inch, Bathgate, which again I attended, and we gathered another huge haul of litter. I just couldn’t believe how much litter was in our environment and these people were finding it all over the place. What a team. What a great bunch of people. I had found people who thought and acted like me, and before too long I too had become an admin of the group. And the rest is history as they say.
So here we are in spring 2022 and to date we reckon that as a group we have collected over 32,000 bags of litter, which is such a short time frame as the group was only formed in March 2019. We do this either by Group Picks, or by our members going out on a daily basis on their own or with friends. We even have Sub Groups that have now set themselves up to litter pick in their own communities, like in Whitburn and Blackburn, and all over Livingston in areas such as Dedridge, Knightsridge, Deans and Craigshill, and then of course not forgetting the fabulous Winchburgh Wombles, and all of those are just a small selection of the Sub Groups getting involved, there are a whole lot more.
West Lothian Litter Pickers, I believe, is the largest and most successful Litter Picking Group in the UK. We have the most members at over 3000, and we have so many corporate relationships with organisations who support us either financially to help us buy equipment for our members, or who donate equipment to our group, or even come picking with us. Companies such as SPAR Scotland, Morrisons, The CO-OP, Tesco and ASDA supermarkets, as well as Cala Homes, Biffa Waste, Forth Rivers Trust, The Woodland Trust, and the McDonalds franchise owner of POA Restaurants, who has outlets in Whitburn, Bathgate and Livingston, and not forgetting our amazing West Lothian Council, who support us no end. I’m not joking the list goes on and on, but I’ve not even touched on the support from local companies which is simply superb, as is the efforts of most of our members in gaining local support and all the picking they do every day. I take my hat off to them all. They are the life blood of our communities. My heroes.
So, if this has in some way inspired or motivated you to get involved with our group or to set up your own group in your area, then go for it. It is so rewarding mentally, physically and for your soul and the difference it makes to your community is immense, and nature will love you for it and give you so much back in return.
Here’s to a cleaner Scotland.