18th Oct, 2019

Volunteer litter pickers reject council's calls to stop collecting used needles

Laura Kearns 13th Sep, 2019

VOLUNTEER litter pickers who collect hundreds of discarded drug needles from the district’s streets every month have slammed council chiefs after being told to stop.

Leam Trash Friends were shocked to receive a set of ‘guidelines’ from Warwick District Council which included not cleaning up needles dumped by addicts – which was one of the main reasons the group formed earlier this year.

And after contacting the council they were even more stunned to be told the authority had no plans for anyone else to carry out the potentially dangerous job of removing discarded needles on private land.

A group spokesman told the Observer: “We rejected their calls for us not collect needles in its entirety. The guidelines say to contact them (the council) to arrange for the removal of needles and sharps, but when we asked about this they said it was ‘private waste’ and they do not have the relevant licence to remove it, so they would not be taking up the job instead.

“We simply cannot sign up to these guidelines and believe they have been created to restrict our work. They have been drawn up without consulting ourselves or any other litter picking groups.”

And now Leam Trash Friends is calling on the council to give the annual budget it has for so-called ‘sharps removals’ to further the group’s work – which they are now looking to expand into Radford Semele, Cubbington and Stoneleigh.

The spokesman added: “Each month we remove around 700 needles.

“We are now launching a campaign and petition calling on the district council to fund the needle removal service we deliver out of the £10,500 budget they have for this.”

But the district council says it would remove needles – if they were on council land or a public highway.

Spokesman for neighbourhood services Coun David Norris said: “Warwick District Council continues to support community litter picking groups and has created a set of guidelines which sets out the process, the council’s commitment, and the commitment of the community group. These guidelines are not intended to restrict existing groups activities but provide advice and guidance to any group looking to undertake a litter pick.

“We have always maintained it is safer for community litter picking groups not to pick up dangerous items such as needles, sharps, syringes and asbestos but to contact the council so a trained team can collect these items.

“The council will action all reports of dangerous items on a public highway or council owned land within 24 hours of the report being received.”

The guidelines come just months after two council contractors from Veolia verbally attacked litter pickers when they went to collect waste in Sydenham, claiming the volunteers were ‘doing them out of jobs’.

The council and Veolia have since apologised and one of the staff was sacked while another was been given a verbal warning.

Search Leam Trash Friends on Facebook to find out more about the group.

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