Sunday, 29 September 2013

How Green is My Mountain?

Snowdon does not get the respect it deserves as a national icon and legendary burial site; our offerings to the gods are bags of dog poo, cigarette ends and plastic bottles. Litter picks address the symptoms but not the causes, and the volumes of litter can be massive with over thirty bin bags being filled on a walk down the Llanberis path.

This summer a group of organisations came together under the banner of Wyddfa Lân: Snowdon Tidy to assess the problem and put in place actions to make a lasting reduction of litter on all main paths from the summit to the base.

As part of the fact finding, two litter picks were organised with one from the summit to Llanberis in August and another in September which concentrated on the area around Glaslyn where blown-off rubbish accumulates (many thanks to the Snowdon Mountain Railway for providing transport up the mountain).  In addition a survey was conducted over four days with 160 walkers being interviewed by volunteers on all main paths.  Results from the survey and the litter picks are being analysed to assess the overall volume and visual impact, the most common items, hotspots for litter and worst offenders.

Initial feedback suggests the volume is down from previous years and the suspicion is that this is due to the appointment of Dewi Davies as senior warden for the northern area of the Park and Helen Pye as the warden for Snowdon after a couple of years with no wardens in post. Helen and two seasonal wardens patrol the paths on a regular basis and as part of their patrols pick up litter, especially at the start of the paths; the thinking being that people are less likely to drop litter in a clean area.

Inevitably the single use plastic bottle contributed the greatest volume of rubbish prompting the equally inevitable ‘if you can carry it full, surely you can carry it empty?’ As for dog poo bags, which were prolific at the bottoms of paths, these provoke the most disgust amongst walkers.

During the surveys and litter picks we talked with lots of people and one of the good things to hear, from people doing the 3 Peaks, was that Snowdon was much cleaner than both Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike. Considering we have three times the visitors to Ben Nevis this is quite an achievement.

When people were asked what could be done to reduce littering one of the responses was the provision of bins and recycling points, in particular at Pen y Pass. This is not an oversight but a conscious decision or policy of the National Park Authority; if you bring rubbish you should take it away with you. The vast majority of people respect and appreciate this but some just feel it’s someone else’s responsibility to dispose of or recycle waste.

There is no magic wand or silver bullet solution to reducing litter on Snowdon (and elsewhere) but there does seem to be overwhelming support by the many to address the problem that we think is caused by the few.  What we hope to achieve is for Snowdon to become an exemplar mountain, just as people who climb Cadair Idris might come down a poet, people who come down Snowdon become eco warrriors for a greener future.

We have a long way to go but we are on the way!

Wyddfa Lân: Snowdon Tidy is the name of an initiative to achieve and sustain a meaningful reduction of litter on all main paths from the base to the summit of Snowdon. This includes the car parks and responsible disposal of rubbish i.e. recycling not landfill.

The initiative is supported by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, Cymdeithas Eryri the Snowdonia Society, the Snowdon Mountain Railway, the Halfway Café, Natural Resources Wales, Keep Wales Tidy, the North Wales Environmental Outdoor Charter Group, the Snowdon Marathon and Bangor University through the Green Innovation Future Technologies (GIFT) project, the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change and the Welsh Institute for Sustainable Environments (WISE).

Following this initial phase positive improvement strategies to address the problems identified will be implemented in close consultation and engagement with all stakeholders.

We are grateful to have received financial support from the CAE Sustainable Development Fund and also from GIFT (the Green Innovation Future Technologies project at Bangor University) which has been a major catalyst for getting the initiative off the ground.

The Snowdonia Society is leading a group of volunteers up Snowdon on Friday 4th October for the annual end of season litter pick. The Snowdon Mountain Railway is providing a free ride up the mountain for participants. If you would like to take part please contact jenny@snowdonia-society.org.uk

A coordinated litter sweep on Saturday 12th October to clean the three highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales has been dubbed ‘The Real 3 Peaks Challenge’. Supported by the Mountain Training Association, the project will see teams of volunteers climbing to the summits of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, clearing as much as they can from the summit areas and from the popular routes used. The peaks have been chosen as the 'honey pot' areas but there will also be other clear up events across many National Parks. To find out how you can help and who your local contact is, visit http://www.mountain-training.org/latest-news/the-real-3-peaks-challenge

1 comment:

  1. Around the Anglesey coast the Friends of the Anglesey Coast Path have a regular programme of rolling litter picks - now under the banner of coastal enhancement. Obviously there is a somewhat different mix of rubbish types but some are similar to Snowdon ie Dog Poo Bags. One thing FOACP are making an effort to record is the numbers of balloons and their strings as well as any remains of Chinese Lanterns. Where there are markings these are recorded. This several times has included fast food outlets such as Pizza Hut. I think these are given away to children. There is due to be an article in the next FOACP newsletter about these items including from "Sky Tipping". I guess balloons are more likely to land up on beach strand lines than turn up on the mountains, but I guess some must snag on bushes as they come down. While not wanting to appear insensitive, it is high time the release of balloons in memory of people or events was discouraged. After all, it is just a form of littering. This comment contributed by Ivor Rees

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