Cleaning Up the Streets of South Acton

How a community initiative is making litter disappear from the area

Members of the South Acton litterpick group
Members of the South Acton litterpick group

October 16, 2023

Over the last few years there has been a growing community movement within the South Acton area to make the area more attractive and litter free.

The original spark came in 2018 from local resident Elisabeth Curlet who decided that action, rather than just talk, was needed to achieve her ambition of a litter free, attractive South Acton.

She got in touch with the council, which was happy to provide litter picks and green bags, and by September 2019 a small but dedicated team of litter pickers began to meet once every fortnight at the Mill Hill Surgery on Avenue Road.

The group grew steadily, continuing, at an appropriate distance from each other, over lockdown and becoming a weekly meet up. For many, who otherwise would have faced total isolation at this time, the group was invaluable.

Passers-by were inspired to join and this enabled the group to increase its coverage area. Instead of all meeting at the same spot at 9.00am on a Saturday, some set off at that time from their homes (in King Edward’s Gardens, Rosemont Road, The Vale etc) to meet an hour later at base camp next to the Surgery.

Members of the South ActThe founder of the initiative - Elisabeth Curlet
The founder of the initiative - Elisabeth Curlet

In summer 2020, Elisabeth was told about the similar work being done by LAGER Can (Litter Action Group of Ealing Residents) which had grown out of a Facebook group. It had been set up a few years earlier by Keith Freegard who had been working for the council at the time. He had been convinced that every local community could have a hugely positive role to play. The Ealing group promoted itself with bright blue bags branded with its name to advertise this volunteering opportunity far and wide.

Once lockdown ended, people had less time on their hands to help but South Acton was much cleaner overall than it had been and a committed core team was still able to maintain the area.

While litter picking in the area, Elisabeth met Aga, who had recently moved into Bollo Lane and was equally enthusiastic about improving her environment in Acton Gardens. They agreed a Sunday morning litter group in the development could make a difference. Volunteers now start at 10am from various locations and meet an hour or so later at Acton Gardens Square to enjoy a coffee at Mint Cafe. Several people litter pick in their own time including Prav and Dale in East Acton, Lynn in the Mill Hill area, Joy in Springfield Park, others in Gunnersbury, Sadia and Olena all over.

The What’s App group “Acton Litter Collective” has more than doubled in number from 20 to 44 members. It has become clear that “small is beautiful” so there are now two separate WhatsApp groups, the original Acton Litter Collective meeting every Saturday, and the newer Acton Gardens Group meeting on Sunday mornings.

Elisabeth Curlet says, “People often tell litter pickers how grateful they are for the strength of their commitment to making local streets and spaces attractive. It makes everyone feel better, new friendships are formed and it is great to see ‘caring’ come back into fashion.

“Despite efforts across the borough by volunteers and Greener Ealing, there are still times when the amount of visible rubbish is grim, so the battle is far from won. Partly it is today’s consuming- on-the-go society, partly time pressures, partly job pressures, partly not enough bins, partly rubbish collections not being frequent enough.”

She is particularly keen on people separating out cans and bottles as they are easily recycled so the group hangs out two bags in South Acton one for drinks containers and one for general rubbish. She says this has been very successful as people nearly always choose the right bag.

Blue for general waste, transparent for cans and bottles
Blue for general waste, transparent for cans and bottles

Elisabeth adds, “In the meantime, look out for your friendly litter pickers, say hello and please consider joining in our campaign to ensure that Acton is the best it can be.”

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