26th June 2024

If you’re au fait with our work, you’ll know that we often we try and deal with major challenges. Bridgemead has been one of the biggest yet. It had been treated as a dumping ground for many years, litter has begotten litter to extraordinary levels, fly-tipping the same, and no-one had cared to clean it. It was a collective failure of people, community, businesses, and government. Shame on us!

We had looked at this area in 2023 but didn’t have the capacity to deal with it. Additionally to litter pick in areas of woodland, we have a limited window through autumn and winter when foliage has died back to be able to easily access areas. So we started cleaning Bridgemead in December 2023, hosting weekly events.

We started work in a lay-by close to a McDonald’s restaurant. McDonald’s packaging was littered everywhere, as it generally is around Swindon. PET lids and other plastic packaging. The PET lids break down into tiny pieces and are especially difficult and time-consuming to collect. In France, legislation has been introduced to eliminate single-use packaging in cafes and restaurants. That legislation is to be rolled out across the EU by 2030. McDonald's campaigned against this.

Littered single-use items

There is no such legislation in the UK which is lagging behind. Additionally the estimated dates for implementation of both the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPS) have been put back another 2 years to October 2027. Countries in the EU can manage this but the UK cannot. Extensive government corruption noted. Hence City to Sea are campaigning for legislation akin to that recently introduced in France. More info is available in their policy hub which includes a petition to sign and share.

Back to Bridgemead: We met with McDonald’s and asked for signs and a bin by the lay-by. They agreed to put up a sign for their customers and paid for a bin which will be emptied by Central Swindon North Parish Council. Thanks to both of them.

Not far from McDonald’s in Bridgemead is another behemoth corporation, Sainsbury’s. We found cabling from their car wash dumped in the woodland behind it. Close by was a Sainsbury’s promotional sign held on with plastic cable-ties. Hundreds of cable ties were littered in the surrounding woodland. In the same area, scores of blue plastic gloves from the petrol station were littered. And finally we found a dumped Sainsbury's car park sign. We contacted Sainsbury’s with pictures and asked for them to litter pick the grounds, to move the plastic gloves inside the petrol station kiosk (which successfully reduced littering and single-use plastics at the Apple Green petrol station in Gorse Hill), and to provide another bin. They have cleaned the grounds, for which we are grateful, thank you. We are waiting to hear back on other enquiries.

A sign at Bridgemead reads, “Sainsbury’s - good food for all of us”. Do Sainsbury's provide good food?

  • Does good food poison us?
    What pesticides and additives go into Sainsbury’s food?
  • Does good food poison the environment?
    How much plastic packaging is used in Sainsbury’s food?
  • Is good food unsustainable, leading to climate change and loss of biodiversity?
    How far does Sainsbury’s food travel? Do the farming methods support healthy soil and biodiversity?
  • Does good food involve the abuse of people?
    Does Sainsbury’s support a real living wage and good conditions for suppliers and staff? Do they treat their staff with respect or like dispensable pick-rate automatons? How are workers in their supply chain treated?
  • Does good food involved the torture of animals?
    How are the animals treated who provide the meat and dairy that Sainsbury’s sell?
  • Does good food cripple the economy and form a system of oppression?
    Around 10p in the pound remains in the local economy when supporting the likes of Sainsbury. That figure is 50-70p in the pound when supporting local independents.

There are empowering alternatives to supermarkets which transcend this destructive cycle of cheap. Check out Swindon's Refill champions who offer a variety of zero waste and refill alternatives, some of which are cheaper than the supermarkets. If organic food is not affordable then we can grow our own. If we don't have a suitable space to do so, there are plenty of community gardening groups looking for volunteers.

Our work at Bridgemead has been well supported by the local parish councils, West Swindon and Central Swindon North. Many thanks to them. They’ve installed bins and have collected a mountain of rubbish. Good waste facilitation reduces litter. Parish councils don’t have a lot of funds but generally provide support how, where, and when they can. This is generally the case and empowers such community efforts. What a difference between central and local government! Local often informs, empowers, provides, and engages. National often deceives, manipulates, monopolises, and dictates. Key solutions to aspects of our societal struggles are decentralisation and federation, which remove the ability of tyrants to deceive and manipulate, to instead empower our needs.

On our last pick at Bridgemead, we were joined by Green S Welfare Force, an organisation we'd not heard of. You might be surprised to learn that they have over 8 million members worldwide. It was a pleasure to meet and work with such nice people, part of what seems to be a great organisation focused on providing for community and caring for the environment. Some of the Green S Welfare Force members who joined us live in Swindon. Some had travelled from as far afield as London and Birmingham. Now that’s dedication! Respect and thanks for your help.

We estimated to have collected over 300 bags of rubbish as well as myriad loose items at Bridgemead. We have put in place measures which should reduce littering and encourage better treatment of the environment. Like attracts like.

Thanks to our brilliant volunteers for getting stuck into such a mess and restoring the natural beauty in this area. Indeed thanks to everyone involved.

We’ve done a great job at Bridgemead! Co-operation makes it happen.