Tackling litter in Sutton Park

June 4, 2020 Reviews

We are both disgusted and disheartened to see the extreme amounts of litter currently discarded in Sutton Park on a daily basis.

During the first phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, the litter problem started to grow as normal people were trying to remain active and enjoy one of the UK’s finest parks. We saw the usual litter items… water bottles, cigarette butts, aluminium drinks cans, discarded food packaging and the recurring (and somewhat disgusting) nappy sacks and dog poo bags hanging off trees like Christmas decorations (why?). Unfortunately, these are all standard daily sights in this otherwise unspoilt local resource.

Litter floating in the water at Powells Pool, Boldmere

Then ‘Lockdown phase 2’ started. The Government’s relaxing of group sizes to include up to 6 people meeting outdoors meant that people were gathering in droves, especially since the weather was sunny and warm.

Inevitably, with more people using communal spaces we will see litter levels increasing. Admittedly, there aren’t enough bins in the park to cater for everyone on a busy day. Sensible and environmentally aware folk will carry their own rubbish, but for those who can’t be bothered or deem it ‘uncool’ to be seen with a large bag or bottle in hand, it’s just too much of an effort to walk to a bin. And once the rubbish starts to amass, it really does seem to encourage weak-willed people to do the same, with them somehow pushing the blame back to the park maintenance staff.

The rubbish that we see doesn’t always show the full picture either, as many people voluntarily pick up bags of litter to keep our beautiful Sutton Park clean. This really helps to prevent animals from choking on or ingesting plastics, metals and non-natural and toxic (for them) foodstuff. We do this and encourage others to do it too, despite sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the problem.

Group gatherings in the park

Barbecues certainly don’t help as we now witness groups of large numbers of people gathering, despite COVID-19 warnings. There are barbecues being used on sunny days which pose a great fire risk to the park, especially disposable ones that get left behind but are still hot enough to be able to start fires. We have also seen hot coals and ash dumped from other types of barbecue. People, it seems, don’t use their common sense when the sun shines…

Nitrous Oxide and discarded canisters

There has also been a rise in the amount of cars arriving in the car parks to participate in ‘ballooning’ which is basically the inhaling of Nitrous Oxide or ‘laughing gas’. For those who don’t know, this is a relatively new and addictive habit where people breathe in a colourless gas from a small pressurised metal canister. It goes by alternative names such as Hippie Crack, Whippits, Balloons, Nos or Noz, Chargers and Laughing Gas.

People usually open the canister, transfer the gas into a container (usually a balloon), then inhale from the balloon. If they inhale directly from the canister then it becomes extremely dangerous because the gas is under high pressure. This can lead to a spasm of the throat muscle and prevent a person from breathing, resulting in asphyxiation.

You might have seen these bright silver metal canisters lying around in city streets outside pubs and clubs. We are now seeing them in huge amounts in the parking areas of Sutton Park. Here is a bag filled with strewn canisters that a responsible local resident has gathered.

Nitrous Oxide canisters retrieved from Sutton Park

This was collected on one day and really shows the scale of the problem. Predominantly young people are taking this gas and besides the immediate high they get, the disorientation and often-times paranoia they’ll get while ‘coming down’ is very serious. As indeed are the other known side effects such as anaemia, B12 deficiency and white blood cell deficiencies. We have unfortunately witnessed car drivers taking this too, the consequences really don’t bear thinking about.

Nos canisters strewn across a car park by Boldmere Gate.

Nitrous Oxide is not illegal to possess, but it is a psychoactive drug and is covered by the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act. It’s illegal to sell or give it away.

If you are worried about your use, or that of a family member or friend, you can call FRANK, a drug information and advice resource, on 0300 1236600 for friendly and confidential advice.

What can be done?

Currently, the gates to the park are being left open, so it’s leading to more litter and group gatherings.

You can contact your local MP to try to get things changed and get some support on the issues. You can also report people who leave litter behind and name-and-shame those who participate in this vile habit.

If you want to take it a step further and be pro-active, you can join a group of volunteers who fight the daily battle to keep the fields, lakes and woodlands of Sutton Park clean.


Let’s try to keep our beautiful, local, natural park in the condition it deserves.

Update 02/06/20 – We have heard that local MP Andrew Mitchell has secured more police, rangers and fire officers to support the current issues.

Update 03/06/20 – Park gates are now being closed at 8 pm.