The UK’s Growing Litter Army: The Friends of Shirley Park, Birmingham

The UK’s Growing Litter Army: The Friends of Shirley Park, Birmingham

The UK’s Growing Litter Army: The Friends of Shirley Park, Birmingham

A group of litter pickers is waging war on the litter that’s blighting the streets and green spaces of Birmingham.

One of the groups, the Friends of Shirley Park, has reported that volunteers have picked up crisp packets from under hedgerows that date back to when the Spice Girls were in the charts, and the worst thing is, they had barely decomposed.

Single-use plastic is blighting Birmingham

Litter is very much a local issue in Birmingham, it’s not just something that is seen on David Attenborough documentaries. Litter blights parks, roadsides, and green spaces in the city, and single-use plastic is a particular problem.

One of the group members said that people will often have a picnic in the park and leave their rubbish behind. She added that the group is calling for a water fountain to be installed so that people bring less plastic bottles to the park which are then discarded. As well as this issue, people throwing rubbish from cars is also a problem, as is cigarette litter.

The group’s volunteers are no strangers to picking up unusual items of litter, and among the stranger items they’ve found are a foam walking stick, old car batteries, and wheeled shopping carts.

The group’s founder said that litter can have a huge impact on wildlife, especially creatures like foxes, badgers, and owls who have made Shirley Park their home.

Litter picks have ‘made a difference’

But the good news is, the group’s clean up events seem to have made a difference, and less litter is being found now. The more litter there is in any given area, the more litter people will drop as it appears that nobody cares about it.

The Friends of Shirley Park want to encourage people to use the park and do their bit to keep it tidy. The group’s strategy involves engaging with young people like local scouts and guides, and educating them on the importance of keeping their local area clean and litter-free.




A practical response to the litter problem

The group was set up back in 2017, after a group of travellers left a huge mess behind in the makeshift camp they had set up. The founders say that setting up the group was a practical and positive response to the issue, rather than just taking to social media and venting to the police or the council like many other people.

Now the group counts itself as one of many anti-litter groups that have been set up to tackle litter in the city. Some groups consist of residents who aren’t really organised, they’re just doing their bit. They include dog walkers who pick up litter on their daily walks, residents in Knowle who wade out into the village pond to fish out litter, and a father and daughter who hired a boat to go and clear rubbish from a local canal.

Solihull council has praised the residents for their community spirit, and last year, it opened ‘litter picking hubs’ where people can sign out litter picking equipment to assist with their clean up efforts. The council said it has been overwhelmed with enquiries from people who want to do their bit.

A local councillor said she was delighted that young people are getting involved in the clean ups and that the sense of community displayed by the residents was very encouraging.

The Friends of Shirley Park hold a monthly litter pick on the first Saturday of every month. If you live in the area, you can find more information on their Facebook page. For information on the other litter picking groups in the area, visit