Saturday, 17 August 2013

Snowdon Tidy!

Three years ago I took part in an October litter pick from the top of Snowdon down the Llanberis path and 36 of us each filled a black bin bag. Last week I joined another but smaller group and we could only find enough to fill seven bags. Where has all the rubbish gone? 

The Abandoned Soldier
The Snowdon Mountain Railway had kindly offered us a ride up the mountain on the works train leaving at 08:00. Also on board were the staff for Hafod Eryri plus a group from the Abandoned Soldier; their mission to take a sculpture to the summit to raise awareness and campaign for better treatment of wounded servicemen. Relative to USA we offer less care and support.

Gloves, bags and litter pickers were issued but in high winds these can be tricky to use, especially for fiddly bits of rubbish. For me gloves and bending worked best. Around the summit the main items were small, apart from an inside-out umbrella; tops of plastic bottles, stirrers, little milk containers and countless cigarette ends which take ages to degrade.

The first section of path was relatively clear with just a few items clinging to the top of the cliff in wind-sheltered spots; a volunteer was discouraged from pursuing litter too close to the edge. How far would a sweet wrapper fly from here?

Where the path goes under the railway it was a bit more productive in finding litter with plastic bottles now in the mix. As we picked the litter we shouted out the items to Jenny, our leader, who recorded the pattern. The idea is to identify the main items and locations to see if there is a particular group of litterbugs we can tackle.

At the halfway point we were into slush puppy and poo bag territory; there must be an optimum amount of exercise to trigger canine bowels and on the bottom half of the path I picked up 7 or 8 knotted bags. Would it be better if dog owners slung the unbagged poop off the path to mix with the sheep droppings? Plastic straws worried me. I must have picked up at least 40 but where were the containers that went with them? Probably some miles away to the north east.

Along the way we chatted with walkers full of support for what we were doing and several with imaginative and painful suggestions for dealing with offenders. What was surprising was meeting people who had recently done the Three Peaks; Ben Nevis is reported to be the worst, Scafell Pike is bad and Snowdon the cleanest by a long way. Walkers along the Snowdon Ranger and the Pyg Track reported seeing almost no rubbish.

So where has all the rubbish gone? I have heard that the National Park wardens are making an effort to keep the paths clean and in particular the bottom sections; the mentality being that litter breeds litter and people are less likely to throw things into a clean area. A few weeks before us had been the Snowdon Race and maybe someone had organised a litter pick after that? 

I feel quite good that Snowdon is considered the cleanest of the Three Peaks but there is still much work to be done to get the mountain into a suitably pristine state and to change the litter behaviour. A group called Snowdon Tidy (Wyddfa Lân) has been formed to assess the problem and put in place actions to sort it out and our day was a part of that project. The next event will be a litter pick in September, in an area away from the paths where we suspect lots of items get blown into. In addition litter surveys are being conducted on four afternoons through the summer.  At the end of the season two major litter picks are planned: on 4th October the Snowdonia Society will aim to get 60 people up Snowdon and on 12th October there will be another event titled ‘The REAL 3 Peaks Challenge’ which will collect litter off all three Peaks.

Snowdon Tidy is supported by many individuals, the Snowdonia National Park Authority, the Snowdonia Society, the Snowdon Mountain Railway, the Halfway Café, Natural Resources Wales, the GIFT (Green Innovation Future Technologies) project at Bangor University and the North Wales Environmental Outdoor Charter Group.  We are grateful to have received £990 of support from the CAE Sustainable Development Fund.


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