People often measure the quality of their local environment by the presence or absence of things like litter, dog fouling, fly tipping and abandoned vehicles. These issues, and others, affect how we feel about where we live and work, and what we think of our communities. Whether it's where you live, work, or take your recreation, a clean, safe, and green environment is seen as something that benefits us all.
This is the basis of the Street Champion project. As a Street Champion you'll work with the council to help take positive action to clean our streets more effectively, and help make Middlesbrough a cleaner and safer community for everyone to enjoy.
What is a Street Champion?
Street Champion volunteers in Middlesbrough are the environmental equivalent of Neighbourhood Watch. They help to keep their local area clean and tidy, and report to the council any persistent issues such as litter, dog fouling, graffiti, broken street furniture, overflowing bins or abandoned vehicles etc.
The Street Champion scheme is part of Middlesbrough Council's commitment to encouraging a positive community spirit, with neighbours and local residents organising community litter picks, attending meetings and supporting fellow residents in need. As a volunteer Street Champion you'll address issues in your local area on a day to day basis, and you may be involved in litter picks or meetings to plan events and activities.
There's no obligation to be high profile; you can remain anonymous if you wish and simply report issues from home, either via the council website or by contacting the Environment Contact Centre on 01642 726001.
These are the main issues a Street Champion volunteer may face:
- Chewing gum
- Dog fouling
- Domestic/household waste
- Business waste
- Abandoned or nuisance vehicles
- Highways and street lighting
All activities carry risk and it's the responsibility of both Middlesbrough Council and the Street Champion to understand what the specific risks are and how those risks can be kept to a minimum. The council will support Street Champions with necessary equipment, help and guidance where appropriate.
Organising an event
The council is always ready to help volunteers organise and carry out activities. There is normally sufficient equipment, but it can be extremely busy at certain times, so it would be helpful to contact Environment Services staff (01642 726001), or the Lead Street Champions in your area, as soon as you have a date in mind. Council staff and Lead Street Champions will be able to offer guidance on where to, and where not to, carry out activities.
When a resident contacts the council to become a Street Champion, they'll receive a pack containing:
- Litter pickers
- Bags for litter
- High visibility waistcoats
- Gloves for protection (heavy and immovable items should be reported to Area Care for the council to remove)
- Notebook to record any issues for reporting
Some simple steps to carry out an inspection:
- Pick a road or area you'd like to monitor. This may not necessarily be the road in which you live, it could be another road which you frequently walk eg on the school run or your way to work etc.
- Note any risks or hazards specific to the area which you wish to monitor, such as busy roads, steep banks, rivers and becks, or the potential to find needles or witness aggressive behaviour. You should feel safe at all times while performing the duties of a Street Champion.
- Inform Middlesbrough Council staff to register your details and the area you wish to monitor.
- Once a week at a time that suits you, monitor your chosen area and report to Middlesbrough Council. If appropriate, carry out a litter pick and arrange for bagged rubbish to be collected by Area Care.
Environment Contact Centre
Phone: 01642 726001
This reference guide is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. It aims to provide a summary of the main issues you may face as a volunteer and an overview of the reporting process. Further advice on any specific issue should be sought from Middlesbrough Council.
Litter usually includes materials associated with smoking, eating and drinking, which have been discarded and left, or have been spilt during waste collection operations. Local authorities have a legal duty to clear litter and refuse from relevant land and highways for which they are responsible, such as streets, parks, playgrounds, and pedestrianised areas.
As a guideline, a single plastic sack of rubbish or more is usually be considered fly-tipping rather than litter.
There are also many other organisations who have a duty to clean their land, such as:
- Appropriate Crown Authorities
- Designated Statutory Undertakers (including transport operators such as ports, docks, railways, airports, transport hubs)
- Governing bodies of schools and colleges are legally responsible for clearing the litter and refuse from their own grounds, but not outside their grounds. This is the responsibility of whoever owns the land. However, schools are encouraged to work with others if specific problems occur; such as litter trails between schools and local shops.
If privately owned land is littered, the owner is responsible for clearing the litter.
What you can do:
Prevention is the best policy, and encouraging people not to drop litter in the first place is the best course of action to prevent the build up of litter. However Middlesbrough Council advises you to monitor and report the issues to them and not to approach or challenge offenders. You're advised to note the details of the offence as soon as possible. Details should include the name and address of the person who littered (if known), a description of the litter, and details of the date, time and place of offence. This information should then be reported as part of your inspection.
Individuals can organise a litter pick event in their area, and the council can offer practical support with this, such as providing equipment, as well as advice and guidance.
A lot of gum gets dropped on the streets and once trodden into the path it becomes unsightly and difficult to remove. Dropping gum is classed as dropping litter, but once it becomes flattened into the ground it cannot be removed easily. Special cleansing methods may be needed to deal with excessive and trodden-in gum.
What you can do:
Prevention is the best method but if there's an issue with excessive chewing gum in your area, please monitor and report the issue, don't approach or challenge the offenders.
Dog faeces can carry harmful infections and parasites, the most commonly known being toxocariasis. Dog fouling is consistently one of the highest sources of complaints by the public to local authorities.
Household waste includes all waste from regular household sources, including all that is left on the street for collection, all that goes to the local waste disposal/treatment facility, and all that is set out for recycling and composting.
There are many laws relating to disposal of business waste, and local authorities can pick up business waste and prosecute for fly tipping. The business which creates the waste has a legal responsibility to ensure that the waste is kept safe, stored appropriately and disposed of properly.
Business waste can be anything that commerce or industry produces that they want or need to have removed, which includes materials destined for further use. It is estimated that 180 million tonnes of waste are produced by commerce and industry each year.
What you can do:
If household or business waste is an issue in your area, do not attempt to remove any of the waste but monitor the situation and report this as part of your inspection as there are certain items of waste that are liable to special disposal regulations.
Fly tipping is defined as the illegal deposit of any waste onto land, i.e. waste dumped or tipped on a site with no licence to 'accept waste'. This includes general household waste, larger domestic items including fridges and mattresses, garden refuse, and commercial waste such as builders rubble, clinical waste, and tyres.
Waste is counted as a fly tip if it is too large to be removed by a normal hand-sweeping barrow.
What you can do:
If you discover a fly tip in your area please follow these simple steps:
Report it via the council website.
Record the exact details including date, day and time that the fly tipping occurred, a description of what was tipped and how much was tipped, and what happened – how many people were involved, what did they look like, what did they do, was there a vehicle involved, and if so, what were the vehicle details (colour, make and model, license number)? Also mention whether anyone else witnessed the fly tipping.
You should be aware that you may be asked to act as a witness in court if the fly tipper is prosecuted.
Please remember you should never:
- Touch or handle the waste
- Disturb the site
- Put yourself at risk in any way
An abandoned vehicle is one 'where it appears to a local authority that ... [the] vehicle is abandoned without lawful authority'. Nuisance vehicles are those that have no registered keeper, or are abandoned, untaxed, causing nuisance, or being detrimental to the amenity of an area.
What you can do:
If you suspect a vehicle is abandoned please consider all of the following:
- Are the tyres flat?
- Is there any litter, weeds, etc. under the vehicle which indicate that is hasn't been moved for some time?
- Are the brake discs rusty?
- Is the windscreen or any of the windows broken?
- Is mould present on either the inside or outside of the vehicle?
- Does the vehicle have a number plate?
- Do local householders, businesses, councillors or police know how long the vehicle has been there?
Taking all these points into account, if you consider the vehicle to be abandoned or a nuisance, please report this as part of your monitoring activity. Please provide exact details of the vehicle, its location, how long it's been there, and the vehicle's condition.
Any vehicle which is causing an obstruction, whether abandoned or not, should be reported to the police on 0845 6060 365.
Fly-posting is the display of advertising material (posters, stickers, etc.) on buildings and street furniture without the consent of the owner. It can be unsightly, affects the image of an area, and costs approximately £6k per annum per local authority to clean up and remove.
Fixed Penalty Notices can be issued by local authorities for fly-posting offences and offenders can be prosecuted through the Magistrates' Court, although the main issue with prosecution is identifying the parties against whom action can be taken.
What you can do:
If fly-posting is an issue in your area, please report this and the council will assess and monitor the situation, and take action to remove the offending articles if necessary.
Graffiti refers to drawings, patterns, scribbles, messages or tags that are painted, written or carved on walls and other surfaces without the owner's permission. This can be distressing, difficult to remove, and cause offence.
Graffiti, like litter, crime and antisocial behaviour, often tends to be focussed in specific areas, and often the issues are directly linked to each other. Where this happens, it's highly visible and dramatically changes the way people see an area, leading to a general downward spiral. It costs over £1bn a year in the UK to remove graffiti from our streets.
Middlesbrough Council removes graffiti from public buildings, monuments and street furniture for which it is responsible. Other street furniture, such as telephone kiosks, bus shelters and electricity boxes are the responsibility of the company that has placed them there. In addition, the council is not responsible for private buildings, although we will often help private owners with graffiti removal.
What you can do:
You should report graffiti as part of your monitoring in the first instance. The council will remove graffiti from any building it is responsible for, and priority will be given to racist or offensive graffiti. We will advise if the removal needs to involve a third party e.g. a building owner.
The highways department is responsible for maintaining and improving the roads, footpaths, bridges, street lights and traffic signals in Middlesbrough. This comprises of 458km of highway, over 11,000 street lights, and 84 bridges (including culverts and subways).
What you can do:
If you spot any of the following please report in as part of your monitoring:
- Broken pavement
- Obstructions to pavements and roads
Please provide the street name, location and nature of problem.
For broken street lights please provide the following:
- Street name
- Street light column number
- Nature of problem