TK Maxx litter picks

28th July 2022

Just before you enter the TK Maxx car park, there is a little area of public woodland on the left with an alleyway behind it. We first came across this area kind of by accident. One of our litter pickers is a teacher at the college. She was keen to clean the area around the 2 roundabouts close by, along which many college students traverse. Being a major intersection for pedestrians and vehicles, this area is accordingly heavily littered.

Picture of the woodland by the road

On meeting up one Friday by the car park entrance to TK Maxx, the heavens opened and we sought shelter. This is how we came to see the abomination that this area of woodland and the alleyway by it had become. There was all manner of crap; clothes, bottles, cans, building rubble, needles, broken glass, a mattress, a vacuum cleaner, a sofa, wood, bedding, fencing... this is not the Generation Game! This was one of the most appalling sites I have come across in terms of litter and flytipping. It's a relatively small space that was absolutely covered in waste. How did it get like this?

It soon became apparent that people use the woodland to drink and take drugs, as the woodland is well covered, so a good place to hide. In our time so far there, we have collected perhaps 60-100 needles, some exposed, some in cases. There was also bedding here, suggesting that someone had been sleeping here. This is fairly common in Swindon. We've seen bedding in all kinds of locations. Let's note that homelessness occurs in a country with enough housing for all, if it was shared rather than commodified.

We decided to clear the big items of rubbish as quickly as we could. That included heavy items such as concrete and furniture. As we were regularly working late on a Friday afternoon, Central North Swindon Parish Council could not collect until Monday at the earliest. We later found out that some people had thought that our piles of rubbish to collect were flytipping. This has happened many times and it's something we need to deal with so that people know that our collections are not flytipping. It's interesting that people get angry without understanding the situation. As a friend said to me a few years back, "People give what they have to give". Years later, I see the wisdom in that.

McDonald's is not far away. As is the case in most locations that we litter pick, McDonald's packaging is littered all over. When we first contacted parish councils for Keep Swindon Tidy, takeaway food packaging was mentioned as a major problem by most of them. Some responsibilty would be nice, from McDonald's and its customers. I did speak with the local McDonald's manager but he didn't seem at all interested.

There's a film about McDonald's called The Founder. The story explains how a family-run business expanded to become transnational. The marketing person behind the expansion was perhaps aptly named Ray Kroc.

I don't like McDonald's. For me they sum up much of what is wrong with the world. Greed, ignorance, environmental destruction, pollution, abuse of animals... That relatively poor people eat at their 'restaurants' seems to me a sick joke akin to the public being fed disinformation / manipulated by a mainstream media predominantly owned by just a few wealthy / powerful corporations.

I was amongst those supporting the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) McDonald's Strike in Swindon in 2017, handing out leaflets and talking with people about McDonald's working conditions. One of the McDonald's staff was trying to antagonise activists and called in the police to try and get us arrested. We had done nothing wrong so the police left. ♫[Brainwashing whistle]♫ I'm not loving it!

Ruth, a local resident and one of our crew for these litter picks, has tidied up an area close to McDonald's, created some nice features, planted... to brighten up the area and help it be treated with more respect.

Plenty of local residents have expressed gratitude for our work. Karen kindly offered to help clear up someone's back garden curtilage, which we did. As we worked our way further along the alleyway, we came across a huge pile of rubbish in front of someone's garage. We spoke to the people renting, who told us that it was there when they moved in. So we spoke to the estate agents. They contacted the landlord, who was also frustrated by this rubbish, apparently left by the previous tenants. It didn't seem like this mess would be cleaned, so we offered to do it.

Huge pile of rubbish in front of a garage

After all our efforts, it was lovely to see the woodland tranform from a rubbish dump back to an area of nature!

Phyllida made a weeny little sign with "litter picked" and a heart written on it. We have been wanting to roll out signs out for a while. In practise, such activities don't go as planed, taking much longer than estimated or hoped. That's one of the problems of being a voluntary organisation, and having more work than capacity.

We've been collecting wood found on litter picks to be used for signs. The kind folk at the Men's Shed in Penhill, part of Renew Swindon, helped me do that. They also helped me out personally. Like many other environmental and political campaigners, I sometimes struggle with the daily burdon of emotionally-heavy existential crises, as well as isolation. The closeness and kindness of the Shed folk helped get me through a particularly difficult patch. Thank you!

Karen Leggett painted our first home-made sign. It's a lovely photo of Karen with the sign. I'm pleased for her because she works so hard for Keep Swindon Tidy and around where she lives. I've joked about cloning her, but we may have to!! First sign in place, more to come very soon in both central north and south Swindon.

We've been working with Central North Swindon Parish Council to install public bins around the area. One has been approved. It is situated along Corporation Street, a major thoroughfare to / from town. It previosly had a bin which, like many others, was removed by the borough council as they implemented the government's cuts to council funding.

We would like another 2 bins in this area. It is made more complicated because some of the land is private, and because of accessibility criteria set by the parish council.

Proposed bin locations

Thanks to Karen, Julie, Phyllida, Ruth, and Lynn for your hard work and enthusiasm to clean this area! Thanks to Central North Swindon Parish Council and the local community for supporting our efforts. Keep Swindon Tidy, be the change...