Leeds litter hero’s rallying call

Jeff says littering is a massive problem which councils don't have the resources to tackle.
Jeff says littering is a massive problem which councils don't have the resources to tackle.
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A Leeds man who has spent much of his free time over the past 11 years tidying up litter left by others is calling on the Government and community leaders to help change attitudes towards the problem.

Jeff Yates began his crusade after joining a walking group in Guiseley.

He found that along the way, he spent much of the time picking up enough rubbish to fill several bin bags.

“In the end, walking wasn’t as much fun, so I decided I would spend more of my time focusing on clearing up,” Jeff said.

At first Jeff, whose main job is as a deputy head teacher at a Leeds primary school, joined the Tidy Up Guiseley group.

But, when it became evident there simply weren’t the resources to mount regular litter patrols, he took them on himself.

Eleven years later, he’s still going strong.

He now co-ordinates a small force of volunteers who work closely with both Guiseley In Bloom and Leeds City Council to keep their own specific patches litter-free.

“We each do our own bit and then leave the bags at a pre-arranged spot where the council collects them,” said Jeff.

“People may think cleaning up is the council’s job but they simply don’t have the resources to deal with such a massive problem either.

“If you want to find out how big it is, think of what you would consider to be a serious litter problem - but then multiply it by a hundred.”

But, despite the endless cleaning up, Jeff says the Litter-Free Guiseley team tries to maintain a positive approach.

“If I come across someone leaving litter, I smile,” he said.

“I think it’s more likely people will react positively to what we’re doing if we’re not confrontational.

“I’ve never had any abuse or complaints when I’ve been out clearing litter.

“But I don’t think it’s just about enforcement or education.

“If there is a solution, I think it comes from a change in culture and that has to be led by our elected councillors and Government.

“It’s not going to change overnight but, if we can repeat the message again and again that dropping litter is socially unacceptable, we may make a difference eventually.

“After all, if I can co-ordinate a campaign, anyone can.

“The more we can build a network, the more of an effect we’ll have.”

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