“We’re wiping out enviro-crime.” This is the bold statement declared on banners across Waltham Forest, accompanied by an anonymous hand wiping out graffiti.
"Fly-tipping, littering, graffiti and dog fouling are ruining our borough".
In other words, “This borough is being ruined”. Rather a negative message, don’t you think?
There are four different slogans explaining the damage caused by each “crime” to our streets: Dog fouling is degrading, Graffiti is defacing, Litter is spoiling and Fly Tipping is ruining. Each of these slogans presents a very adverse view of Waltham Forest, which is after all one of the greenest boroughs in London (both in terms of recycling statistics, and green space available). What are visitors going to think?
Instead, I propose some new slogans.
“Have pride in your area! If you see someone littering, clean up if you can and report it to… “ “Love the Forest – don’t foul it!”
And how about “Let’s get clean!” rather than “wipe out enviro-crime” - a phrase I'd never heard before, despite being a Street Watcher issued with my own set of graffiti wipes to do just that!
Yes, it’s reasonable to ask people to report graffiti and fly tipping to the council, but what about inviting residents to let the council know where we need more litterbins? Or which abandoned corners, ripe for fly tipping, we think could do with a more active presence as a deterrent? (Surely our Safer Neighbourhoods Teams could rustle up some PCSOs to help with that.) And yes, we do have people dropping litter. Recently I was incensed to watch a man park up opposite my house to eat his chicken and chips, and then proceed to throw anything he didn’t want to eat – including napkins – out of the window. When I challenged him, his unfathomable response was that “it’s just bones”. But this man was a visitor, in a builder’s van. Perhaps the banners are making people think that we already have plenty of rubbish, so a bit extra won’t hurt. We need to make newcomers see that we care about our area.
Actually, as well as street cleaning, there are regular clean-up events throughout the borough. So I was amazed to see the “big clean” on Chestnut Fields promoted on the council’s website – it even got TV attention. In fact my local residents’ association holds litter picks twice a year, filling several bags of rubbish, but nobody comes to film us. We just get on with it – it’s part of having pride in where we live. If this is to spread, we need a longer term change, not just a quick fix with the spotlight on one or two events. When the “enviro-crime” focus has finished, what difference will there be?
We have a lot to be proud of in Waltham Forest. According to the Environment Agency’s “State of the Environment” factsheet, our ecological and carbon footprints are among the lowest in London, lower even than the UK average. We also have one of the highest recycling rates in London, nearly 10% above the target set for us. So let’s be positive about this and not use messages which suggest to outsiders that we inhabit some kind of filthy East London ghetto.