Edinburgh litter picker puts life at risk to tidy city embankments

A lone ranger litter clearing crusader has turned his attention to rubbish strewn sideways of a major road in a bid to clean up the city single-handedly.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 11:55 am
Updated Monday, 28th January 2019, 12:02 pm

Putting his own life in peril Alistair Blakey from Bingham said he is prepared to scoop up the embankments of Sir Harry Lauder Road and Seafield Road to clear up the route into Capital.

But his attempts are being thwarted by health and safety concerns as Edinburgh council says “leave it to us”.

His one-man cleanliness drive was sparked five years ago after he found around 70 used hypodermic needles in woodland near his home in Bingham Crossway.

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Alistair Blakey is prepared to put his life at risk to clean the embankment near Fort Kinnaird

His midnight missions to clear parks, pathways and burns of litter has continued ever since and he now wants to draw attention to the swathes of rubbish that line the A1 and into A199.

“It is all along the slip road down towards Kinnaird Park and we’re not just talking wee amounts of rubbish,” Alistair said. “It is also lining Seafield Road, outside Edinburgh Council’s dump site.

“I went down onto the beach and the whole embankment is covered in rubbish – there’s nails, there’s glass. It’s shocking but nobody is interested in clearing it up. I have been taking pictures since Christmas of the woods beside the A1, and the slip road, and there is so much rubbish, it’s collecting.

Alistair said the vast majority of the rubbish is plastic with items such as mattress coverings posing a danger to passing motorists passing on the bypass. He recognises the danger in attempting to pick up trash from the side of the busy road but said he throws caution to the wind. “I could go down with a rake in the night and get all of it out – people are worried I could get hit by a car but I don’t care.” He joked: “I’ll make a sign, ‘caution – watch out for the bam cleaning’.

In the meantime, Alistair continues to take care of his local area despite being unable to ditch the waste at Craigmillar Reycling Centre due to the facility’s licence restrictions. The frustrated 55-year-old, who has picked up everything from metal gates to umbrellas, pedal bikes and hoovers and even a dead cat, said he just wants to do his bit.

Peoples Heath Trust Project Lead Cris Thacker from community development organisation Community Renewal, has been working to support Alistair’s mission. He said: “Alistair really is a great guy, doing a good thing from the kindness of his own heart. The local community is completely behind him.

“He has cleaned up in and around the Bingham Tunnel, the burn at Jewel Park, Duddingston Row, Bingham Avenue and everywhere in between. He’s a community stalwart.”

Transport and Environment Convener, Cllr Lesley 
Macinnes, said: “We appreciate the work Mr Blakey carries out to keep his local community clean and will continue to work with him to provide litter-picking equipment and collection of litter where needed. We had agreed with Mr Blakey that, once he has completed a litter pick and has let us know where the bags have been left, we will arrange for this to be uplifted at the earliest opportunity.

“We also welcome reports from Mr Blakey of litter hotspots that require attention, and endeavour to visit areas in question as quickly as possible. However, roads such as Sir Harry Lauder Road do require traffic management in order to carry out cleansing, and we would strongly discourage the public from conducting litter picks there.”