Trash Free Trails – in Snowdonia
Litter has become a hot topic in the marine environment and beach cleans have become a valuable tool for raising awareness and generating data on the sources of pollution in our seas.
That’s why Trash Free Trails, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to bring the ‘beach clean mentality’ to our beautiful inland wild spaces, have teamed up with Bangor University to address some of these important knowledge gaps.
Surprisingly little is known about why people litter, and even less is known about the ecological impacts of doing so.
There are questions we all desperately need answers to, especially as we tentatively leave behind the restrictions of the pandemic and we all look to our wonderful local wild spaces for socialising, exercise, and relaxation. These include, why do the very people who travel to enjoy wild spaces then drop litter? What are the ecological impacts of littering? And how can we help people feel more connected to our wonderful parks, hillsides, forests, and coastal trails to encourage changes in behaviour?
To launch the Bangor University/Trash Free Trails academic partnership, the University and Trash Free Trails hosted the first State of Our Trails Summit held at the University’s own M-SParc Science Park, making use of the outdoor courtyard space and the café; itself recently achieving zero-plastic status!
The interactive conference attracted representatives from Bosch eBike Systems, Natural Resources Wales, Snowdonia National Park, Trek Bikes, British Cycling, the National Trust, professional athletes and more as well as community ambassadors from Trash Free Trails and researchers from Bangor University.
Dom Ferris, Managing Director of Trash Free Trails said;
“For us to achieve our mission to reduce single use pollution on our trails and wild places by 75% by 2025 we first need to know how much is out there and what impacts it’s having. There is currently little to no scientific understanding on this (despite the fact that estimates suggest 4 - 23 times more plastic pollution is escaping into our terrestrial ecosystems than their marine counterparts), it became clear that we had to do it ourselves! In response to this need we made the State of Our Trails Report our hub project until 2025. Driven by our people powered projects and fueled with (cycling) citizen science data, we’re honored and excited to be working alongside Bangor University to conduct this pioneering research.
All this is very easy to say, but actions speak far louder than words. So, being able to present our State of Our Trails Report - Baseline Study to almost 30 key ‘MTB ecosystem’ stakeholders, in real life, at stunning M-Sparc Centre confirmed our belief in the importance of this project and provided inspiration for all of us to begin the next phase this pioneering project. We’re incredibly grateful to all of those who made the journey to Anglesey, our partners and most importantly our TRASHMOB Community, whose 316 trail clean data sets made this all possible. Let’s go again!”
Dr Martyn Kurr, of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Science said:
“As we continue to develop our research collaboration, it is clear from the energy at the event that we’ll have plenty of interest and investment from other stakeholders. The lively and productive discussions and wonderful outputs from the workshops, show a passionate community of ecosystem managers, enterprising businesses, journalists, professional and athletes, and of course members of the public of all ages. We are all committed to working for a cleaner and litter-free environment. We are excited to see this kind of enthusiasm, and working closely with Trash Free Trails, we look forward to focusing that passion into a success for our natural environment. We could not have asked for a better event to start this journey!”
The event featured plenary speakers, breakout workshop activities, and live data analysis from Trash Free Trails’ own State of Our Trails Report. . The event also included practical outdoors sessions, trail cleans, and guided bike rides at the internationally renowned Coed y Brenin trail centre – the longest running dedicated mountain biking trail centre in the world.
Data from the weekend’s activities were analyzed as part of the conference, and more analysis using innovative three-dimensional models is planned. The event serves as a call to arms for researchers, businesses, policy makers, and the public to help tackle litter and improve our connection to the great outdoors.
Emily Roberts, Operations and Customer Experience Manager at M-SParc said:
“It was great to see such an initiative by a Bangor University student take place. As part of Bangor University we work closely with researchers and student entrepreneurs. This project combined both, and we wish the project every success for the future.”
Chris Astle, UK Marketing Manager for Bosch eBike Systems said:
“We’re very proud to be working with Trash Free Trails on the State of Our Trails Report. Environmental responsibility requires a collective approach from a range of angles, and as one of the leading manufacturers of eBike systems we’re privileged to be involved in such an important research project.”
Publication date: 12 July 2021