In 2018 the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) initiated the project Hills 2 Oceans in an effort to showcase all the worthwhile clean-up campaigns happening around the UK so that debris from the inland doesn’t land in the ocean. The nominated project H2O Community Hub Scheme is an additional phase of the initiative which focuses on the creation of hubs, located in outdoor retail shops, the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), the Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC) and local community centres across the country where free compostable bin bags and litter pickers can be obtained.
Vision, goals and objectives
By connecting with local community groups directly and more widely publicising the Hills 2 Oceans (H2O) litter picking campaign it is the BMC’s hope to extend the reach of the campaign and more people will feel inspired to remove litter from mountain areas. This will be achieved through the creation of hubs, located in outdoor retail shops, the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), the Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC) and local community centres across the country where free compostable bin bags and litter pickers can be obtained. The vision is for a litter free mountain environment and for it to become second nature to take a picker and a bag whenever going for a walk.
A record increase in the amount of litter has been seen across the UK during the Covid crisis and not only does this need removing but it should be prevented from happening again. The project hopes to do this by providing the tools for communities to tackle the issue and educate through powerful messaging. The BMC wishes to widen its engagement with climbers, hill walkers, mountaineers and all visitors to mountains and uplands so they can continue to enjoy the outdoors, engage with nature and take more action to protect it. There is an increased appetite by the public to conserve the areas it love and the project’s aim is to tap into this enthusiasm now.
It is estimated there are now 5.25 trillion pieces of ocean plastic debris, and the quantity of plastic in the sea will treble by 2025. There are also reports that some areas have seen a 300% rise in litter flowing the relaxation of lockdown rules and an increase in discarded food and drink packaging, particularly single-use plastics.
To date the H2O campaign has given out over 10,000 bags and 5000 litter pickers through a dedicated online portal (where the public can register for a number of pickers and bags to be posted to their home) but the goal is to double this over the next two years. This shall be done by creating hubs within local communities where pickers and bags can be collected at key geographical locations. It is anticipated the H2O hub scheme will continue indefinitely once funding is in place, equipment can be purchased and it is up and running.
Overall, the project objectives include:
- A successful collaboration between the BMC and external stakeholders including local businesses, the YHA as well as local community centres.
- Engaging and empowering communities to partake in litter picking and help conserve our precious mountain environments
- More visitors connecting with nature to increase understanding and/or improve wellbeing
- Engaging with over 10,000 new volunteers across the country by providing the tools, resources and appropriate risk assessments to carry out a litter pick under the ‘H2O’ brand name.
- Giving out 20,000 bags and 10,000 litter pickers over the next 2 years.
Expected implementation and outcomes
In key geographical locations the project will identify a number of locations, near to access points in mountaineering regions and areas popular with visitors. These will include:
- Community centres / spaces in rural settings
- Outdoor retail outlets in popular towns close to climbing and mountaineering areas
- YHA and CCC venues in key settings
Geographical locations that will be targeted include key National Parks:
- Peak District
- Lake District
- Yorkshire Dales
- North York Moor
The request for community centres, retail outlets, YHAs and the CCC to get involved and become H2O hubs will be made by contacting them directly, through the National Park Authorities, local councils, the BMC Partnership Assembly and the Outdoor Industry Association. The BMC already has a good working relationship with all of these stakeholders. The BMC will also liaise with local residents (through the regional network of volunteers) so everyone is aware of the availability of pickers and bags. The Peak District National Park for example, are already supportive of the campaign and have requested 65 pickers and 250 bags to help equip 13 parishes with full litter picking kit across the Peak District.
Each of the hubs will be provided with at least 20 litter pickers and 40 bags. Alongside this will be general information on waste and litter, a list of organised litter picks happening in the area with external partners, how to recycle and dispose of litter safely, good practice guidance on walking and climbing in the mountains, along with appropriate risk assessments. A request to return the pickers once they have completed a walk will also be made. A BMC volunteer will ensure that equipment is replaced if needed. Participants will be encouraged to detail their walk and litter picks on the dedicated Facebook page. The hub scheme will be publicised widely across BMC social media channels as well as through partners and key stakeholders such as Keep Britain Tidy and Surfers Against Sewage.
Climbing, mountaineering or outdoor sport focus
The BMC is well-known amongst the climbing and mountaineering fraternity in the UK and the H2O campaign has been very well-received by its 75,000 members.
For the next phase of the campaign the aim is to widen the engagement beyond the current membership to connect with all visitors of mountains and uplands so they can continue to enjoy the outdoors, engage with nature and take more action to protect it. As a result of Covid, there is an increase in appetite by the public to conserve the areas it loves, particularly the protected landscapes that include mountainous regions. The BMC will focus its energy on advertising the campaign and providing community assets to those towns and villages that nestle into the most popular climbing and mountain areas of England and Wales. The wish is to encourage climbers and hill walkers, who are the obvious community to help tackle the removal of litter, to make it second nature that they take a picker and a bag with them whenever and wherever they go for a walk in the mountains or visit the crag.
It is estimated that the uplands now host more than 100 million day visits a year. Climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, naturally cherish these relatively untouched summits and cliffs. However, their activities can affect the ecology of these important refuges which all are trying to protect. Whether it is ground-nesting birds, arctic-alpine flora, blanket bog or the fragile montane heath on the very highest summits, there is a need to be aware of, and to protect, the special features of the environment used and enjoyed.
Best practice in mountaineering and mountain-based sports for mountain protection
The BMC H2O Community Hub scheme will make free compostable bin bags and litter pickers widely available to communities and visitors across the UK working with outdoor retailers, the YHA, the CCC and local community groups / centres.
A record increase in the amount of litter has been seen across the UK during this Covid crisis and not only does this need removing from hills and mountains so that it doesn’t end up in oceans but the BMC wants to educate and try to understand why this is happening. The hope is to do this by providing the tools for communities to tackle the issue and educate through powerful messaging / information so that these special places remain special, and access to popular climbing and mountain areas is not lost.
In particular, the BMC will make the following publications available alongside the information on litter and disposing of it correctly.
The Green Guide for groups of Walkers / The Green Guide for groups of Climbers
The Green Guide for Challenge events
Respect the Rock guidance
To discover more about the UIAA Mountain Protection Award please click here.