Litter kills. Oxford City Council is warning visitors to Port Meadow and other green spaces to take their rubbish home or face a £150 fixed penalty notice.
Two cows – including a seven month old calf – have died on Port Meadow in recent weeks as the result of eating plastic bags, balloons and other left behind rubbish. Other grazing cows and horses have sustained multiple injuries that include glass cuts, and Council and ODS staff have even had to rescue swans that became entangled in litter.
Since the easing of lockdown measures people have returned to Port Meadow for picnics and parties, leaving behind up to three tonnes of rubbish a day.
Port Meadow is not only historic grazing land for horses and cattle, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the diversity of its wildlife. It is also a scheduled historic ancient monument as it contains Bronze Age burial mounds, the remnants of Civil War defences and a World War I aerodrome.
The Council encourages people to enjoy Port Meadow and other green spaces responsibly, and its direct services company ODS has installed extra bins at entrances to the meadow that are being emptied more frequently than before the pandemic.
The Council believes that recent behaviour is unacceptable and is now taking a tougher line on people who do not take their rubbish away. It is working with Thames Valley Police to step up patrols of the meadow that will issue £150 fixed penalty notices to people caught littering. If further enforcement action is required, the Magistrates’ Court has the power to impose a maximum fine of £2,500.
ODS has put Your Litter Kills signs that feature a photo of the calf killed by rubbish at entrances to Port Meadow. These aim to remind people of their responsibilities: take your rubbish home, or face a £150 fixed penalty notice.
“Litter on Port Meadow kills. Literally. Two cows have died from eating rubbish, and cows, horses and swans have suffered multiple injuries that include glass cuts and getting entangled in plastic. This is completely unacceptable and I have a very simple message for people who think it is okay to litter. It is not okay. Your litter kills. Take it home with you or face a £150 fine.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks
“The litter is taking a really serious toll and it really does put the future of the meadow and its wildlife very much at risk. What we’re really asking people to do is be responsible. We welcome careful, responsible users and the vast majority of people are. But if you’re coming here for a picnic, take your rubbish home. There is no excuse for leaving any rubbish behind.”
Julian Cooper, Port Meadow ranger, ODS