Sustainable Cities™

Tipton: Think Before You Throw

The Tipton Litter and Watch project in the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell in the English West Midlands, engages children and young adults in green waste disposal, helping to create a cleaner local community. The town's youngsters are challenging the preconception that they are "young litterbugs” by demonstrating the will to make a difference. With active learning, collective litter-picking sessions and prizes for the most diligent operators, Tipton is making sustainable waste disposal a common issue.

Børn fra Victoria Park Primary School i 'Tænk før du smider væk'-projektet. Foto venligst udlånt af Tipton Litter Watch

Many people immediately associate littering in the countryside and on the street with young people and dubious morals. The interesting thing about Tipton's effort to combat littering is that the project not only makes young people aware of taking care of their surroundings and encourages them to get involved; it is also changing the public's attitude to young people. The project shows that young people can also environment-conscious and help to tidy up in the area where they live. 'Think Before You Throw' campaign gives young people the opportunity to make a difference and over the last four years, 20,000 young volunteers throughout Sandwell have been involved in picking up litter.

Think Before You Throw is an active and engaging teaching programme of environmental study for children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 16 comprising lesson plans, student worksheets, in-school and extramural activities, eco workshops, environmental competitions, litter picking sessions and an online website. Teaching is organised to involve entire schools, students and teachers alike, in developing awareness of, and respect for the local environment and the importance of sustainable living both at school and at home.

Collected cans. iStock photo

Every year since April 2007, Sandwell and Tipton have held a Big Spring Clean, in which volunteer litter-pickers collect litter throughout the borough. To date, 12,500 volunteers between age 2 and age 80, including 95 schools throughout the borough, local groups and companies have worked together to collect 24,600 tonnes of litter, including cigarette butts, pizza trays, cans and car tyres lying about in the area.

To support the programme, Tipton has developed a school status scheme with three annual awards to teachers, students and parents that recognise achievements in the classroom as well as in the wider community.

The Tipton Litter Watch scheme has only two paid staff and is based on powerful co-operation between the young people, the public sector and local and national companies, including the Community Recycling Venture, PC World and McDonald's. Sandwell cooperates closely with the individual schools to spread the project of the entire borough which, in addition to Tipton also consists of Wednesbury, West Bromwich, Oldbury, Smethwick and Rowley Regis.

"As Secretary of State for Environment, I really appreciate the efforts your charity has gone to in raising awareness of litter and its associated environmental problems; particularly your hard work, dedication and what you have achieved with such a small team and an even smaller budget. It is heartening also to read about Sandwell's young people taking an active role in improving the quality of life within their schools and local areas(...)"

Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State (senior minister) for the Environment.

The story of The Black Country

Tipton was one of the key towns in Britain's 19th century industrial revolution and was once one of the most heavily industrialised towns in the English West Midlands, also known as the Black Country. In 1800, it was a largely rural area, with a population of some 4,000, but by the 1870s it had numerous coal mines, blast furnaces, factories built side by side and a population fast approaching 30,000.

Charles Dickens described in his novel The Old Curiosity Shop how the chimneys of the Black Country "Poured out their plague of smoke, obscured the light, and made foul the melancholy air". In the 19th century, the chimneys of Tipton and other towns in the region were responsible for a level of pollution that had few equals anywhere else in the world.

The grim region Mordor of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is inspired by what was also known as the Workshop of the World. In the Elvish Sindarin language Mor-Dor means the Dark (or black) land.

Engineer James Watt's first steam engine was built in or near Tipton in the 1770s and used to pump water out of the coal mines.

A lot has changed a lot since then, and housing estates have been built on many of Tipton's former industrial sites. Even so, Black Country people are still proud of their heritage.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014