Sandwell charity works to dispose of masks left strewn in the street

A Sandwell community charity has been kept busy during lockdown collecting and disposing of discarded face masks.

Serco employee Lucy Wood with a mask and litter picker
Serco employee Lucy Wood with a mask and litter picker

Litterwatch Sandwell is a community-led charity, supported by Sandwell Council and Serco, which helps Tipton residents to tackle environmental concerns and report litter problems.

Established by the late Councillor Bob Lloyd in 1997, the charity has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to clean the streets around the community.

Chief Officer Alicia Wingfield said the charity had begun focussing on picking and binning used face masks due to the increasing amount being thrown away.

She said: "We've noticed a significant increase in the number of face masks being thrown away, first outside supermarkets, then in bushes and on the canal.

"They are a risk because, first of all, you've been wearing them because of Covid and they're near your mouth.

"Also, we're finding that wildlife is getting tangled up in them, with bird beaks and feet and paws and flippers, and how they're running down the canals into the drains and rivers and out into the ocean."

The 55-year-old said groups from the charity were out each day picking up and bagging rubbish, with a group she was leading going through 40 bags of litter in one day.

She said: "What we're asking people to do is wear re-usable face masks and, with disposable ones, find a bin nearby or put it in your pocket and dispose of it at home."

She said the number of volunteers had increased significantly in the last year, from 138 in January 2020 to more than 800 in January 2021.

She also spoke of the work the charity had done over the last 24 years to help people raise awareness of the importance of the environment and had a message for the public.

She said: "Everybody can make a difference, even if it's two minutes of your time or two hours, you can make a difference."

To find out more about Litterwatch Sandwell, go to

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