Litter Picking in Leeds

You may have noticed that Scuba Leeds have recently gone on a litter picking mission above and below the waters. As someone who helps organise these events I thought it was worth explaining why each month we collect litter from our environment.

Canal Clean Ups

As a dive centre, Scuba Leeds is placed right in the middle of some amazing dive sites. We can access several inland quarries, equal distance to the east and west coast, with Scotland and Wales, make for a perfect weekend trip away diving. We may be landlocked, but it just gives us so many options when planning dives.

Unfortunately, our location does limit our access to water when time is limited such as mid-week after work. As a diver who is a little obsessed with collecting debris from our dive sites, I wanted to be able to help more. I wanted to help on those days I couldn’t get underwater. So back at the start of the year a couple of our team members headed down to the canal with a bin bag to see if there was any debris to collect. It turns out there was, and lots! Within 10 minutes of litter picking, we had a full bag of debris and a feeling of satisfaction. It didn’t take long to start planning our next litter picking session and now we conduct these monthly.

How does picking up litter on a canal in Leeds help clean our seas?

Leeds is 90 miles from the nearest sea. At first, many people assume litter picking in Leeds can’t help with the issue of trash in our seas. How does picking up plastic wrappers by a canal 90 miles from the sea make a difference? Well, it does.

Our dive centre is 200m away from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which as the name suggests makes its journey from Leeds across to Liverpool. From Leeds, the canal merges directly into the River Aire before continuing along to the Hull Estuary. A piece of debris dropped in Leeds can very easily make its journey into the canal and then across to the Irish Sea or into the North Sea. By collecting the debris at the start of its journey we can help prevent it making it into the sea. Each piece of litter we remove is one less dangerous item for birds, animals and marine life.

Not only does removing the litter in Leeds prevent trash entering the sea, but it also helps protect our local waterways and canal. It seems like a win-win, litter picking in Leeds helps our local environment. Furthermore, it helps protects dive sites and marine life from debris.

More than just a canal clean up?

There is no doubt that litter picking from our canal helps the environment, even if for a short period of time. However what about the added benefits of getting out and physically picking up litter?

First of all, for me, creating a little community of litter pickers has really been an unexpected benefit. From our cleanups, I have met new people. It has been a pleasure to walk and chat with like-minded people who want to make a difference and learning how trash affects them. It’s been great to have our younger generation come along to help and show that even little ones can see the harm litter does to our environment. It gives me hope for the future.

It’s a great excuse to get out and about on an evening, a bit of exercise and fresh air. An hour of walking, lifting and carrying the heavy bags can really help lift the spirits.

However, what I have enjoyed the most is the feeling after a cleanup session on a job well done. Its made me very proud of our volunteers knowing we have made an immediate benefit to our environment. On every canal clean up we have done, we get members of the public stopping our team to thank us for our hard work for picking up litter. We have had rounds of applause from people on canal boats, people stopping us to chat about our work and asking how they can get involved. We come away from the canal clean-ups with bags of rubbish and a great sense of achievement.

These are the reasons why month after month we return to our canal and seas to do our part.

Making a difference

It can be frustrating after a clean up knowing that in a months time, the litter problem will have returned. Litter seems like a problem too big to conquer. However, the message is growing and spreading. If every bit of activity ripples out to the world the tides can turn on the litter problem. People physically seeing the cleanups, seeing Facebook posts, hearing about it from us on our next dive. It all adds up. Maybe that affect ripples out and soon the momentum is enough that the mountain eventually gets small enough to conquer.....

Awareness is growing and more and more people are joining in the movement to tackle this problem. We just have to keep doing our bit. If we can't change the world immediately, we can make an immediate change to our part of the world.

Want to help?

So if you want to help the local area with a litter picking session and take a stand against debris, but would like the support of a group (which can help remove any “embarrassment” from picking up litter – its hard to feel embarrassed with surrounded by people who get excited at finding every bit of trash and passionate about helping the environment) – please do come along. Everyone is welcome. The more the merrier.

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