Appeal for volunteers to help clean up Stevenage amid environmental crisis

PUBLISHED: 08:29 18 September 2019

Maria Wheeler is calling on people to make a collective effort to clean up Stevenage. Picture: Louise McEvoy.

Maria Wheeler is calling on people to make a collective effort to clean up Stevenage. Picture: Louise McEvoy.

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A woman passionate about protecting the environment held a three-day campaign to raise awareness of the perils facing Earth and what we can all do to help improve the situation.

Maria found a fallen bird's nest and to her horror it has plastic woven into it. Picture: Louise McEvoy.Maria found a fallen bird's nest and to her horror it has plastic woven into it. Picture: Louise McEvoy.

From Friday to Sunday Maria Wheeler could be seen daily on Trinity Road in Stevenage with placards encouraging people to take personal responsibility for the environment.

She was first galvanised into action about six months ago, when her partner discovered plastic bags cannot be recycled.

She said: "He took a bundle to the recycling centre, but they just go to landfill.

"We pollute our oceans with plastic and create dead zones."

Dead zones are hypoxic - low oxygen - areas of the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by excessive pollution from human activities that deplete the oxygen required to support marine life in bottom and near-bottom water.

Phytoplankton - tiny ocean plants - produce 70 per cent of the world's oxygen, and scientists have warned dead zones have quadrupled since 1950.

"There are miles of dead zones off the coast of Mexico and it's growing," Maria explained.

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She has written a book called Oxygen, which looks at what will happen when, through our own actions, oxygen runs out. She said: "It's a thriller, with most of it based on fact."

Maria is also tackling pollution by litter-picking in Stevenage, and is encouraging others to join her.

She said: "Woolners Way was choc-o-bloc with litter - a disgusting mess. My son Jack and I cleared it up. It was a sea of plastic and we collected two bin bags full of litter per hour.

"I'm appalled because people are still dropping litter.

"Jack is 25 and autistic. He's got a very strong sense of right and wrong and can't stand littering."

Maria has set up Stevenage Litter Watch and is asking for volunteers to join her campaign.

She said: "People do want to help, but don't know how to start. All they have to do is get a litter picker, gloves and a bag, and pick up litter and take it to the tip.

"The idea is to get Stevenage covered with people taking responsibility for their own patch.

"It makes you feel good about where you live and you feel like you have contributed.

"I run my own company, but you have to find time. We only have one land, one chance."
To join Stevenage Litter Watch, call Maria on 07967 683464 or email stevenagelitterwatch@gmail.com.

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