ALi – a project promoted by Aberdeenshire Environmental Forum (AEF) – has been in operation for over 5 years with over 500 participants. It is based on the ‘Adopt-a–Street’ concept from North America but without some of the formality and structure.
In the main, it consists of individual volunteers who agree to ‘adopt’ a street or open space of their own choosing and to keep it clear of litter at a frequency that suits their own level of commitment. That level of input may vary according to the need and the lifestyle of the volunteer. The scheme is not policed or monitored. In essence ALi seeks to recognise, support and encourage individuals who care enough about their local environment to be willing to do something practical about it.
ALi volunteers are primarily individual volunteers but the structure of our scheme is flexible enough to support participation from other groups of people (Scouts, Air Training Corps, Community Councils, horticultural groups, businesses etc.) without constraining how they want to operate.
While 500+ volunteers is a large number and is believed to be the largest such scheme in the UK, we believe that there are actually thousands of residents of Aberdeenshire (population c. 250K) who pick litter from outside their own homes in an unseen, unsung local hero way.
The administration of ALi is carried out under the auspices of a ‘Wasters’ sub-group of AEF comprising a number of former local authority and waste management professionals. Volunteers are offered and encouraged to wear a Hi-Viz safety vest and use a litter picking stick both funded by Aberdeenshire Council.
While the operation of the scheme is very ‘relaxed’ about most things the single issue of paramount importance is Health, Safety and Welfare. In that regard members are issued with comprehensive guidance which includes advice on what to do if they come across items outwith their remit or capabilities. We do not have insurance cover and all Volunteers must sign a declaration absolving ALi and its organisers from any liabilities arising from their participation in the scheme.
The ALi scheme is not designed to replace any of the functions and responsibilities of the Council as a ‘Duty Body’ in terms of the legislation. It is not reasonable to expect the Council to be in every single street every day – we could not afford to pay for that – however, the public are and we encourage them to ‘Do a Little to Change a Lot’ by picking up the occasional piece of litter whenever they see it.
It is well known that the presence of litter leads to more littering along the lines of the principles highlighted within the ‘Broken Windows’ Report (1). .. and while picking up the occasional piece of litter is effective and important, of greater importance is the peer pressure/deterrent effect of seeing a local resident – clearly displayed as a ‘VOLUNTEER’ in a Hi-Viz vest. Undoubtedly, litter avoidance is the ‘Holy Grail’
AEF have a website www.green-butterfly.org.uk where our forms and guidance are displayed along with some background information. Most of our volunteers are happy to do their bit in keeping their own patch clear of litter but do not want to be an active part of group activities.
We have a page on Facebook called Friends of Ali https://www.facebook.com/groups/47510797273/ where members and supporters can contribute to the debate and discussions around litter and littering. This page is used to share experiences, ask for advice and to discuss what we would all like to see in terms of Council and Government improvements in terms of the subject. This has been particularly useful in Scotland, where the Scottish Government are nearing the conclusion of a process of reviewing litter and fly tipping. ALi members have used the Facebook page to contribute to that consultation process.
Scotland is due to have the Single Use Carrier Bag Charge as from October 2014 with proceeds put to good causes involved in litter and resource utilisation. ALi hopes to be in a position to expand our activities both locally and nationally, utilising the monies that will be available through that initiative. So there are some exciting times ahead for tackling the litter problem in Scotland in grass roots initiatives…..watch this space.
George Niblock FCIWM
Aberdeenshire Litter Initiative – ALi
Volunteers who adopt-a-street and keep it clear of litter.
Do a little – Change a lot
Join Friends of Ali on Facebook
The more we are, together – the greater our influence in changing behaviours.
(1) Broken Windows in the Big Brother House –Encams – ISBN 1-904860-00-1