Volunteer groups criticise council grass cutting as litter is ‘chewed up’ into ‘tens of thousands of pieces’

The groups have asked for a warning so they can prepare to clean up the 'micro' plastics

Volunteer litter pickers in Botany Bay, Cliftonville and Northdown Park have criticised Thanet District Council’s grass cutting policy claiming it adds to the growing problem of micro plastics in local and marine environments.

Scott Manclark of the Northdown Park Friends’ litter picking group, said: “The contractor fails to pick up litter deposited in the long grass, so the rotors chew up the glass and plastics.

“It turns thousands of pieces of litter into tens of thousands of pieces. The net effect is that glass bottles are smashed into hazardous shards and plastics are mulched and inevitably then become part of the eco-system. Worse, the lighter particles blow across to the beaches and into the sea.”

Along the coast at Botany Bay the contractor has repeated the exercise on the Ridings – an ecologically sensitive area of grassland above the cliffs along Botany and Foreness Bay.

Barry Manners, of the Friends off Botany Bay and Kingsgate, said: “Volunteers first alerted our WhatsApp Group on Monday.

“They picked up several bags on the spot as the finer plastic pieces were being blown onto the clifftop and beach. Over the last few days volunteers have collected several more bags of mulched, shredded and torn plastic litter, as well as smashed glass from the affected areas. Hopefully they’ve mitigated the worst effects”.

In nearby Cliftonville, the Friends of Cliftonville Coastline has previously questioned the need to cut grass verges at all.

The groups are calling on Thanet council to at least give them notice of proposed grass cutting.

Barry said: “If we had a few days’ notice we could mobilise to blitz the area with volunteers in protective boots and leggings to remove the more visible litter. There’s some nasty stuff in there, not least of all human faeces from beach visitors. The grass cutting has the unfortunate effect of mulching and spreading it.

“We’re all acutely aware that budgets are stretched to breaking point and this will only get worse, therefore it would be helpful if TDC could communicate with local groups and tap in to the community’s goodwill to prevent similar problems in future.”

Friends of Northdown Park

In Northdown Park, Scott says: “Volunteers find it frustrating as an easily disposed of plastic cup can become twenty pieces of fiddly plastic.”

He and his fellow volunteers, including his daughters Holly and Sophia, will be out again today (September 12) between 2pm – 3 pm to collect as much of the newly shredded litter as possible.

The Botany Bay group will be cleaning The Ridings and beaches this Sunday (September 13) meeting at 530pm (Botany Road beach entrance) – they usually have a glass of wine for volunteers afterwards too.

If you are unable to join these events you could get involved in the Keep Britain Tidy, “Great British September Clean” campaign which is running now until September 27.

More information at https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/get-involved/support-our-campaigns/great-british-spring-clean/pledge-to-pick

The Friends of Cliftonville Coastline also have a community day today (September 12) from 11am to 1pm, inviting people to help take care of the community flower beds.

Volunteers will meet at the Ethelbert Crescent flowerbeds.

Grass cutting is carried out between March and October, with the majority of areas cut every three to four weeks.

Thanet council says grass is cut but not collected because of the high cost of removal and disposal.

It is carried out on a rolling programme that takes at least three weeks to complete.

Thanet District Council is not a highway authority and is not responsible for the grass cutting on highway verges. This service is provided by Kent County Council.

Maintenance of grass spaces in rural areas is generally the responsibility of the local Town or Parish Councils.


  1. Volunteers do a wonderful job and I know myself how enjoyable it is to get out and about. However it’s not fair to blame the council for the litter in the long grass it’s the dirty ones who drop the litter in the first place who are the guilty ones.

    • Noone is blaming the council for the litter. They’re asking for one of the following:

      – Leaves the verges as wild spaces
      – Pick up the litter before mowing the grass
      – Let local volunteer groups know when mowing is planned so they can pick up the litter

  2. Not picking up litter in the grass is a danger to all but especially to children and dogs. A drink can shredded leaves tiny bits of metal shards.I appreciate it’s down to what used to be called ‘litter louts’but it’s not acceptable either for the mowers to just drive over it all.

  3. You cannot expect the operator of a sit on mower to keep hopping off it to pick up litter especially as they have acres of grass to cut. It’s all very well thinking that the litter could be picked up before the grass is cut but if the grass is too long it’s not possible to see all the litter and cans in the grass. Yes it looks messy all shredded afterwards once the grass is cut. Other than driving a sweeping machine over it which of not really practical litter picking after the grass is cut is the best option. If all the grass was collected in a grass bag on the mower that would be ideal as it would collect the rubbish as well but the council for some reason do not do it like that. Maybe because they know the good old volunteers will sort it out later.

  4. This comes down to the tedious and unnecessary practice of negotiating the right contract with private companies to get Council work done.
    You can never get everything included and the pressure is on to get it done as cheaply as possible.
    All Council work should be carried out by Council staff, under the day-to-day oversight of the Council, acting for the residents.
    That way, it would soon become established practice to have a team going over the land before the mower, removing litter. This “good practice” would not need to be negotiated (or overlooked) every time the private contract has to be agreed with whatever company has the job, bearing in mind that the private company will have it’s profit as it’s main concern. NOT the welfare of the residents and their environment. So they may well take “short-cuts” sometimes. And fail to even consider wildlife implications because they just want to finish the job asap and appear to meet their contractual obligations.
    Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew where the Council street cleaning or grass mowing team might be encountered and knew that we could all make representations about their activities without being put off by being told that the work was being completed according to a contact and would not be altered for the likes of Joe Public until the next round of tendering for the job.(When the same company gets the contract, anyway.)
    Bring Council work back “in house” as soon as possible.

    • Why create a place on the local or/and gov website where contractors post their schedules and require them to use it? Our brilliant local volunteers could then check it. Is it possible for our local councillors to request this?

  5. Each council as usual blames the other for doing something it doesn’t want to take control off. It is not difficult for them to organise a clean either before or straight after the cut the grass. They used to to it so why not now. Why do they want to leave such a disgusting mess on the verges and greens? It is as if they want the area to look worse. It is a crime to litter and these workers are causing litter to be broken into tiny pieces. Their employers should be fined for the environmental polution resulting. It’s just incredible they cannot get this simple thing right. What do they do in their meetings? Drink coffee and chat about the weather?

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