A GROUP of people who got together to clean up their locality has collected more than 11,000 sacks of litter.

The Litter-Free Guiseley Campaign (LFGC) began in 2003, ignited by litter-picking resident Jeff Yates.

It has grown to a group of more than 40 members, whose diligent filling of rubbish bags has transformed previously litter-strewn pockets of land across Guiseley and further afield.

“In February alone we filled 206 bags, covering an area from Hollings Hill to Otley Chevin and beyond,” said Jeff.

It all started when Jeff noticed the amount of litter strewn around as he walked around central and outer Guiseley. “When I started collecting I would take one carrier bag to fill, which soon became two, and then they were quickly filled. Walks were often ruined by having to stop so frequently.”

Guiseley In Bloom's flower beds were often desecrated from the impact of late night revellers and Jeff met with them.

“They wanted to take action on the town's litter problem,” he said. “We decided action was needed and thought it was worth starting something.”

At first the group filled around ten bags a month. Then as the LFGC eventually received some media attention, they expanded.

“A Facebook account and liaising with Litter-Free Leeds, an umbrella group for all groups across the city, stimulated more interest from local people wanting to play a part in fixing the problem,” said Jeff.

“We currently more than 40 members, although I have dispensed nearly 100 litter-picking grabbers.”

The group used to meet every Sunday morning but now communicates its activities via a WhatsApp group.

“People select a stretch to be picked and report left bag locations to me. I then message the local council team who usually collect the bags within 24 hours. It's a system which works very well.

“Members currently work alone or in family units. Once normal service resumes, people will be able to choose who they want to pick with.”

Pupils from local schools have occasionally joined the group as part of their Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award.

“We collect mainly plastic and glass bottles, cans, pizza boxes and takeaway packaging. Litter certainly breeds litter, so the longer it's left, the more it builds up.”

He added: “The response from the public has been 99 per cent positive. People seem genuinely grateful that somebody is trying to make a difference to a problem which is simply too big and too endemic for any council to keep on top of.

“Some of the litter we collect can be three hours old or 30 years old. Country roads, in particular, have fallen victim to the national scourge of vehicle littering.”

The group provides the required equipment, including litter-picking grabbers. “We loan it to interested people and we offer excellent guidance and support. Local community funding from Leeds City Council and local business sponsorship have paid for new equipment and the council supply bags and gloves,” said Jeff.

“All the bags we fill are collected by the council team which operate out of the Henshaw depot in Yeadon.” Some of it is recycled,

“We liaise with other groups under the Litter-Free Leeds umbrella, which now has more than 1,000 members.”

The group inspired the formation of Litter-Free Baildon & Litter-Free Menston.

Lockdown has seen less litter in some places, such as around pubs and schools, but more where people gather, such as beauty spots and parks, said Jeff, who would like to see a national campaign against littering led by the Government and backed by the media

“Leadership and visionary strategies are the only way that the problem can be overcome. They need to attack the problem on many fronts so that eventually littering becomes as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.”

He added: “There's little to be gained by getting angry about litter - it's out there, it's distressing and is something society has to solve. But I suggest to our members that we can only control what we do and maintain a cheerful disposition while we do it.

“We can lead by example in our local area and do what we can to keep on top of the problem.”

Jeff has been pleased to see a recent surge in interest in people taking action against litter in their areas. “We have seen an unprecedented clamour for grabbers and volunteer bags. I suspect this is because more people have noticed litter in their neighbourhoods while out exercising.

“It’s not bad for a group of fed-up locals who started out picking ten bags a month! Guiseley would certainly be a grimmer town without our presence.

Visit the group’s Facebook page, which contains a weekly report; @Litter-FreeGuiseley.