Great British Spring Clean Day – March 20, 2020

Fri Mar 20

Going back as far as the 1970s, environmental awareness has been a thing, and in Great Britain, the main proponent of the citizenry helping to get rid of trash from that time on has been the charity, “Keep Britain Tidy.” In recent years, their main campaign has been the Great British Spring Clean, a span of two weeks and three weekends where local groups organize and mobilize volunteers to pick up litter in their respective areas.

History of Great British Spring Clean Day

The first National Spring Clean Day in the UK took place in 1989, with the charity Keep Britain Tidy enlisting the aid of the children’s entertainment characters, the Wombles. According to our research, two million people participated in the rubbish-cleanup event that year. Since then, on a yearly basis, parks, sidewalks, and public spaces have benefitted from the initiative. Britons have remarked how much they hated to see their favorite local spots littered with trash, and how much they appreciate these clean-up days.

Around 1.9 billion tonnes of litter end up in the ocean every year, which clearly shows that people tend to throw things randomly anywhere, more often than they throw waste in garbage bins. Litter is not just an ugly or aesthetic problem. It has serious environmental consequences that can persist for decades. 

Styrofoam containers take up to a million years to decompose and break down. A disposable diaper can take more than 500 years, cigarettes more than 10 and even orange or banana skins stick around for more than a month. 

The temptation to ‘litter’ is usually motivated by disrespect to the law and its enforcement, as well as ignorance and arrogance in our attitude, thinking that somebody will clean our mess. Significant amount of money is spent to collect and clean up the litter that many people have thoughtlessly tossed out on the streets and other public spaces. The litter collection is a time-consuming and costly exercise with walking marshals collecting the litter from far off places to keep the country tidy.

Litter is a problem that can be controlled. On Great British Spring Clean Day, results are measured in bags of litter cleaned up, which translates literally into tons of trash that otherwise would have remained on the ground in communities, fouling up the landscape. So even if you’re on the western edge of the Atlantic, make it a point these couple of weeks to lend a hand and remove dropped waste from the grounds of your neighborhood.

Great British Spring Clean Day timeline

1968
A story with a message

The first in a series of children’s novels featuring the Wombles — burrow-dwelling creatures concerned about the environment — appears, authored by Elisabeth Bereford.

1970
A forestry figurehead

Americans Glen Kovar and Chuck Williams invent the character Woodsy Owl — whose motto is, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” — to help educate the country’s children about environmentalism.

1989
The beginning of something good

The UK charity Keep Britain Tidy initiates the very first Great British Spring Clean.

2002
Growing as a community bastion

The Tidy Britain Group adopts the new name ENCAMS — an abbreviation of “Environmental Campaigns.”

Great British Spring Clean Day FAQs

What is the great British spring clean?

The aim of the Great British Spring Clean is for communities to come together, clean up their local environment and have fun, which of course means staying safe at all times.

 

What month is spring cleaning?

In many cultures, annual cleaning occurs at the end of the year, which may be in spring or winter, depending on the calendar. The term is also used metaphorically for any kind of heavy-duty cleaning or organizing enterprise.

 

How long does spring cleaning take?

How long does it take to clean our windows, closets and other spring cleaning targets? For 29% of cleaners, the task is done in just a day or two, but most take longer. The average is six days to spring clean.

How To Observe The Great British Spring Clean

  1. Participate in an official event

    If you live in the United Kingdom, it shouldn’t be difficult to get involved in an officially sponsored litter-pickup event in your local area. If you live elsewhere, fear not — you don’t need a special license to organize your friends and family to tidy up a park or downtown block in your city. All you need is garbage bags, latex gloves, and enthusiasm.

  2. Educate your peer group about litter’s effects

    It can be tempting — you unwrap your candy bar, and the nearest trash receptacle is way across the parking lot. What harm could it do to just drop the wrapper and let the wind take it? The trouble is when a whole bunch of people feel that way, and their collective dropped garbage begins to really clutter up and besmirch the landscape. Take some action today to reverse that process, and get your peers in on the action.

  3. Hurl that hashtag

    The official Twitter designation is #gbspringclean. Join the conversation. The battle against the decline of the beauty of green spaces around the world is something you can put your resources to work for. Spread the word on the socials. Challenge your online friends to copy and paste. Get as many people thinking about a clean environment as you can. We can do this!

5 Amazing Facts About Keep Britain Tidy

  1. Going back a while

    At their 1954 Annual General Meeting, the British Women’s Institute passed a resolution that resulted in 26 different organizations coming together to found Keep Britain Tidy.

  2. Laying down the law

    Due to the political work of Keep Britain Tidy, in 1958 the Litter Act was voted into law, charging a fine of ten pounds to anyone caught dropping litter.

  3. Bringing ‘em around again

    In their second team-up, the Wombles and Keep Britain Tidy joined forces in 2014 in a campaign sponsored by the grocery chain Waitrose to once again enlist citizens to pick up litter.

  4. Recognition

    Among Keep Britain Tidy’s accomplishments is the establishment of the Green Flag Award — an international nonprofit accreditation program that recognizes clean and well-kept green spaces of all descriptions.

  5. Yes, animal waste, too

    Keep Britain Tidy considers animal waste to fall under the rubric, “litter,” resulting in their 2010 campaign, “There’s No Such Thing as the Dog Poo Fairy.”

Why We Love The Great British Spring Clean

  1. It’s about a clean environment

    It’s pretty clear that a park or other public space is easier to enjoy when there’s not a dust-devil of food wrappers and other detritus blowing around everywhere. Parks are meant to be a place to soothe the mind and spirit, not a collection area for trash. The Great British Spring Clean helps bring that idea into reality.

  2. It represents a joining of forces

    Aside from resulting in a cleaner space, the Great British Cleanup is inherently fun because of the coming together it represents. When you get involved in a litter-pickup event, you are more than likely to meet your neighbors face to face, establish connections, and forge friendships, all in the name of a good cause.

  3. People in power still have good things in mind

    It takes some political clout to gain the momentum necessary to make things like the Great British Spring Clean a reality. When a person or a group of people reaches that level of bureaucratic effectiveness without losing their original idealism, it’s a thing to celebrate. Let’s work with the forces that be, as long as they still have the common good in mind.