Daventry Litter Wombles shine a light on the group's positive work to tackle littering and fly-tipping in town

“It's our world. It's our environment.”

With the national Great British Spring Clean taking place from March 15 to 31, Daventry Litter Wombles (DLW) founder spoke with this newspaper to highlight the group's work and the challenges they are facing.

Monica de Bokx, 58, founded DLW in March 2021 to help the community and promote awareness of its needs and efforts. She also wanted to provide a platform for people to share their work, offer support to one another, ask questions, and give input and comments.

She said: “If we care for the environment all together, maybe we can change our attitude towards it. It's the environment we live in. It has to become a cultural change. That’s what we're working towards.”

Monica has been litter-picking for a long time. She decided to join the Northants Litter Wombles (NLW) right away after Nicola Elliott founded the organisation in January 2021, and she currently serves as a committee member of the club.

Monica said: “I've never set up a group like that before, so it was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but in hindsight, it was one of the best things I've done in my life.

“We are growing tremendously at this moment.”

Currently, there are about 300 members in the DLW Facebook group, and according to Monica, 10 to 15 per cent of them regularly pick litter from the area.

“We have had a recent influx of active pickers, which is enormously motivating for us. I think the active pickers really appreciate each other's company, so it's nice to go out on a group pick and meet like-minded people.

“If every person in Daventry would pick up two items a day, the whole of the town would look a lot different,” said Monica.

DLW has logged 3,918 bin bags so far since 2021, and there have been 5574 bags collected in the Daventry district, including Daventry, Cold Ashby, Crick, Long Buckby, East Haddon, Branston, Wilford, Kilsby, and West Haddon.

“We wanted to create something ongoing, more leading towards basically a culture change, the behaviour change, because the thing is, if you let it build up for a year, it just all looks horrible,” said Monica.

Since NLW was founded in 2021, 84,203 bags of litter have been collected as of Sunday, February 25, according to Nicola Elliott, the group's founder.

Monica said: “It's okay to care, and you see the difference when you pick up. It's great. Especially if people pick a certain area more regularly, you really see the improvement because you have to pick less and less litter all the time.

“It can really leave you feeling quite sad on one end because there is so much terrible waste about, but very uplifting on the other hand, that you have made such a difference.”

A freedom of information request submitted by this newspaper to West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has revealed that 1473 reports of fly-tipping have been issued in the former Daventry District area between January 1, 2023, and January 1, 2024.

Reflecting on the data, Monica said: “It's a minority of people that do report fly tips. People often take it for granted that somebody else will do it. It would be very, very helpful if more people would be actively involved.

“I don't litter either, but I pick up. I don't know how many bags I pick up a week, not because it's my litter, but because it's my world; it's our world. It's our environment.”

Since the litter-picking groups were founded, the number of fly-tipping reports has been gradually declining, with 1757 reports made in 2021, 1417 in 2022, and 1465 in 2023.

There have been 661 fly-tipping reports made in 2018, 1171 in 2019, and 1882 in 2020.

WNC no longer has access to the historical data of fly-tipping reports submitted before June 4, 2018, since the current service provider Norse took over from the previous contractor Amey on that date.

“It's great to hear that the number of fly-tipping reports has dropped since 2021, but you know it's still a shocking amount,” said Monica.

Monica described Daventry as a “logistics town” and mentioned some of the “worst areas” for fly-tipping in Daventry, such as the Southbrook Estate and the “notorious” lay-bys towards Kilsby and Dodford.

She said: “Daventry comes with its specific challenges because we have, of course, a higher amount of driver-specific waste.

“One of the streets that has a horrendous amount of waste is Royal Oak Way North and Alvis Way in the Royal Oak Industrial Estate. It's an ongoing littering issue.”

Although Monica revealed that the majority of their volunteers purchase their equipment, the "amazing" funding they have gotten over the years from sponsors has been "very helpful."

The founder hopes to see greater clarification on who is responsible for specific areas in the county going forward, as certain areas are under WNC's supervision, others are under the management of private companies, and some are still unclear.

The introduction of more bins is a priority for the NLW and DLW moving forward, as the groups have identified where more bins are needed.

“This is another thing that I'm really stressing with the council. We're experiencing a higher amount of waste in the environment due to there being more disposable items nowadays, and at the same time, we do see bins disappearing. Those bins usually disappear because they're vandalised.

“Some areas are lacking bins, and some areas have bins that are not positioned particularly strategically,” said Monica.

However, following a request for comment from the Chronicle & Echo, it has been revealed that WNC has “no current plans to introduce additional litter bins in 2024.”

“I understand very, very well that the council is trying to do all that they can.

"It's going to be the new financial year as of next week, so I hope there will be some money found to replace those bins. It's hard for us to do,” said Monica.