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Meet the Ipswich commuter who spends 2.5hrs a day litter picking on her way to work

PUBLISHED: 12:05 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:23 15 September 2020

Ruth Longhurst spends her morning commute litter picking in Ipswich  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Ruth Longhurst spends her morning commute litter picking in Ipswich Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Most people spend their journeys to work listening to music, tuning into the radio or reading the latest news on their smartphones.

Ruth Longhurst litter picks as part of the Don't Be A Tosser campaign. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDRuth Longhurst litter picks as part of the Don't Be A Tosser campaign. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

However, Ruth Longhurst keeps occupied on her daily five-mile commute by going out armed with a litter picker and a rubbish bag – to keep Ipswich’s streets clean.

Before dawn has even broken, the 51-year-old sets off from her Chantry home keeping an eye out for discarded cans, bottles and plastic packaging.

Dropping items in the nearest bin as she goes, her five-mile route to her workplace at UK Power Networks starts in Kingfisher Avenue and takes her onto Hawthorn Drive and Birkfield Drive.

In the town centre and Waterfront, she has seen some surprising items – including pillows and a mattress.

Ruth Longhurst's litter picking routeincludes Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDRuth Longhurst's litter picking routeincludes Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

She often has a busier job after weekends, when there is more fast food litter from people who have enjoyed a Friday or Saturday night out.

She finishes along Crown Street and Duke Street, having turned what would usually be a brief car journey into a two and a half hour tour de force keeping Ipswich’s streets looking spick and span.

Yet despite her community-spirited work, Mrs Longhurst - who has turned her daily commute into a litter pick for the Don’t Be A Tosser campaign – wishes others would take more care of their town.

“They’re lazy,” she says of the litterers.

Ruth Longhurst commutes from ger home in Chantry to UK Power Networks in Ipswich. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDRuth Longhurst commutes from ger home in Chantry to UK Power Networks in Ipswich. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

“Not to offend their parents, but I think it’s the way of life some have grown up with.

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“I grew up in the 1970s and remember the Keep Britain Tidy adverts.

“It doesn’t hurt to find something to put your litter in, put it in a bin or take it home with you. Don’t just drop it at the side of the road.”

Ruth Longhurst puts litter in bins as she travels along her route. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDRuth Longhurst puts litter in bins as she travels along her route. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Mrs Longhurst, who is also a member of the Chantry Wombles litter picking group, believes that if she and others “keep away at things, it will make a difference”.

While environmental campaigners – notably Rubbish Walks founder Jason Alexander – highlight patches of rubbish in Ipswich, she says the situation has improved in the past few years.

However, Mr Alexander and others have highlighted an unfortunate recent trend to crop up during the coronavirus crisis – PPE litter, where people discard used face masks and gloves on the ground.

That, campaigners say, is particularly risky when people are being urged to minimise the risks of transmission of Covid-19.

About the Don’t Be A Tosser campaign

The multi-award winning Don’t Be A Tosser campaign - supported by this newspaper, all Suffolk county, borough and district councils, Suffolk Constabulary and police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore - was first launched in 2008 and is spearheaded by BBC Radio Suffolk breakfast show presenter Mark Murphy.

As well as tackling rising levels of litter following the lockdown, this year’s campaign also aims to reduce fly tipping and graffiti.

In the past, it has been credited with reducing levels of anti-social behaviour in the county.

Mr Murphy said: “The hard-hitting message is aimed at those who toss their litter down onto the ground. I’m sick and tired of seeing our beautiful countryside and beaches strewn with litter.

People can download Don’t Be A Tosser posters from the BBC Make a Difference website.


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