A Norton litter-picking group has seen an increase in rubbish during the pandemic and they are determined to continue cleaning up their local area.

Oil terminal maintenance planner Wayne Martin, 45, started a Norton-based litter picking group, Norton clean up your act, last year.

Over 230 members, from school children to pensioners, are part of the group who share their picks with one another.

“I started out by dog walking. While I was doing the dog walking, I thought, as I’m walking along, why don’t I pick stuff up and put it in a bag. That’s what started it,” says Wayne. “Now I’ve taken over those paths and I look after them, more or less every day. I’m proud of the fact that you can walk down there and it’s free of litter.”

Wayne, who leads the group, has been picking litter in his local park for two years now, usually in the early hours before work. He says, “I was talking to a few people at work, and they said ‘why don’t you start a group to get other people to think about it?’”

He says that the amount of litter near Lustrum Beck has increased over the first lockdown in March as more people were spending time outdoors. He adds, “I like to walk my dog there, and so do other people. It’s for everybody to use, so why should it be in that state?”

In its first year, the group has filled 272 bags of rubbish weighing over a tonne in total.

Wayne alone picked up 103 face masks, after the first lockdown, and over 1260 single-use plastic bottles.

The group is looking to reach a larger audience in other areas within the Tees, and Wayne is particularly keen to highlight the problem of single-use plastics being thrown into the local marshes and becks. “I’m counting them as I go along,” he says. “I want to show people how many cans and plastic bottles are being thrown off bridges into the becks that then go into the River Tees. Wildlife are getting injured by this.”

Wayne explains that the litter picking group has brought people from the community together over the past year, which has been a difficult time for many.

“A lot of people walk past me and they say thank you. Some people say that they would like to give me a hand,” says Wayne. “There were two group picks that I organised before lockdown. There were five or six people who turned up and we filled sixteen bags of rubbish on each pick. We cleared a full section of path from bridge to bridge in Norton that I couldn’t handle on my own. It got people together.”

Wayne has also helped litter pick around Harbron Community Woodland, which is at the centre of a Facebook campaign to preserve the area for future generations.

If you’re interested in becoming a member, you can find out more by joining Wayne’s Facebook Group, Norton clean up your act.