Green champion Dai Richards is the king of the clean-ups.
He won a national accolade at the annual Keep Britain Tidy Awards.
Dai won the #LitterHeroes Award for his work as a Keep Britain Tidy ambassador, organising the Morpeth Litter Blitz group, volunteers who carry out monthly litter-picks during the spring and summer.
“I am hugely honoured that we have won this award. It is not just for me, but for every single person who has been involved in the litter picks in Morpeth. The most important message from our Morpeth blitzes is that by all working as part of one team you can achieve superb results,” he said.
“The award is a tribute to what we have achieved together in keeping Morpeth tidy and beautiful.”
Northumberland County Council put forward Dai and the Morpeth group for their outstanding work in cleaning up the town and championing all things green.
The town had a number of litter picking and tidying initiatives, but Dai recognised that there would be benefits to a more coordinated approach and he contacted the Greater Morpeth Development Trust, the Lions Club and other voluntary groups such as the Scouts to pull together a community of volunteers.
He set up meetings with local councillors, representatives from the town and county councils and other interested parties, and a small working group started to plan and promote a series of events.
The network soon grew and throughout the past year there has been a huge effort in the town and surrounding areas which have made a real difference.
The councils and local businesses have helped by providing litter pickers and equipment and, working with Morpeth Town Council, new litter bins have been installed.
There have been many picks and events throughout the year, and an excellent example was last March’s Keep Britain Tidy Great British Spring Clean, when 22 people attended and collected 82 bags of rubbish.
Dai applied for and was successful in becoming a Keep Britain Tidy Ambassador for his local area, and the group received a LOVE Northumberland Award in 2018 in recognition of the work they had done in the community.
Mr Richards said: “It all started back in 2017 when I was walking my dog, with my trusty litter picker, and was alerted to a huge litter black spot in the town. I knew what the problem was far too big for one individual, and during that walk the idea of a litter blitz group was spawned.
“By the end of 2018 we had collected 401 large black bags of rubbish, plus numerous large items such as barbecues, tyres, wheelbarrows and TVs.
“Walking around Morpeth you can definitely see a difference, with the town and estates looking much tidier. It has definitely changed people’s attitudes and cleaned up areas of the town where litter could previously gather.
“What a team we have in Morpeth and what clean-ups we have achieved, all started by a simple idea spawned while walking the dog!”
The group works very closely with Northumberland County Council’s local services teams and the council nominated them for this award.
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for the environment and local services said: “This is fantastic news. It is very fitting that Dai and the Morpeth Litter Blitz group have been recognised in this way - given the strength of their commitment to keeping the town tidy..
“The entire project is a great example of everyone coming together as one team – the people and the businesses of Morpeth, the county council and the local town council – all with the aim of tackling a problem that is sadly widespread throughout the UK.
“I would like to thank Dai and all the volunteers and participants for their ongoing excellent work, and add my sincere congratulations for their success in this award.
“The county council will continue to do all it can to crack down on littering.”
The county council was also shortlisted for the second year running for its Love Parks campaign – an online promotion about people’s love for the county’s parks and green spaces – an award it won in 2018. Its public protection team as also shortlisted in the community engagement category for its Green Dog Walkers scheme.
All of the winners were announced at the annual national Keep Britain Tidy network conference.