A football pitch-sized painting of a woodpecker trapped in a single-use face mask has been unveiled to mark the return of a major anti-littering campaign.
Don’t Trash Our Future – #DTOF – is calling for tougher on-the-spot penalties of up to £1,000 fines or 100 hours community service for dropping rubbish.
The nationwide campaign also wants local authorities to better enforce the law on litterbugs.
It’s being run by the UK’s leading local news and information platform InYourArea in conjunction with Clean Up Britain and already has almost 60,000 signatures on its petition, with the aim of getting 100,000 to be able to lobby Parliament.
The image has been painted – using biodegradable materials – onto a field in the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire, close to High Wycombe.
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The artwork features a lesser spotted woodpecker trapped in a disposable facemask, to illustrate the impact of littering on wildlife.
The bird is an endangered species found in the Chilterns – and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and plays a key role in the local ecological system.
The lesser spotted woodpecker has been chosen for the campaign as it is an endangered bird found in the Chilterns and is widely acknowledged as an ecosystem engineer.
It only uses its cavity once. It is then recycled by other animals for nesting and roosting by fauna, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.
Like other birds, its population has been decimated since the 1970s. The eco-friendly woodpecker image measures 72metres by 68metres and took three days to paint.
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Buckinghamshire Council, which covers much of the Chilterns, is one of a number of authorities which under a Freedom of Information request has admitted that it has not issued any fixed penalty notices or made any prosecutions for dropping litter in the last five years.
Former Scottish Rugby Union captain Kenny Logan, who is campaign Chairman of Clean Up Britain (CLUB), said: “I don’t think many people could have failed to notice the huge amount of PPE face masks that have been littered, all over the country..
“These discarded masks are polluting the environment, look very unsightly and can be very dangerous to wildlife and domestic pets
“It’s a very small thing to ask and to do, but let’s all take much more care over our beautiful country, and ensure we put PPE masks – and indeed all types of litter – where they belong, in the bin.”
Estelle Bailey, chief executive of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, which covers parts of the Chilterns, said: “Many of us have turned to nature during the pandemic for our physical and mental wellbeing.
“Yet our wild spaces are being treated like dumping grounds, with plastic bottles and bags, tin cans, broken glass, babies’ nappies and even fridges left on our nature reserves. Rubbish like this can have a devastating and even deadly impact on the wildlife and livestock in our countryside.
“We’re in a nature and climate crisis, and wildlife here in the UK is struggling. We need more nature everywhere – not more litter. We urge everyone to follow the countryside code – respect, protect, enjoy and please, take your litter home.”
Ed Walker, Editor-in-Chief for InYourArea, said: “Covid-19 should have given everybody the opportunity to reflect upon the beauty of nature and wildlife. Sadly some people are still unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.
“Sign the Don’t Trash our Future petition to get the government to ensure councils impose a fixed penalty so we can enjoy everything that nature and wildlife have to offer now and for generations to come.”