Motorhomes and Campervans Against Litter volunteers help keep National Parks tidy

13 May 2021

Sales of campervans and motorhomes rocketed in 2020 and, with restrictions remaining on travel abroad, the trend looks set to continue. National Parks saw notable increases in campervans with some issues around wild camping, barbecue use and litter. But one rapidly-expanding group of ethical campers has mobilised online to help tackle the problem of litter in National Parks. Abbie Silivistris, founder of Motorhomes and Campervans Against Litter tells us more...

What prompted you to set up Motorhomes and Campervans Against Litter?

I absolutely love exploring the outdoors in my campervan and feel passionate about caring for the places we visit by helping to keep them litter free. When we park up I often do a little litter pick as a way of giving back to nature and the local area and always leave the area tidier than how I found it. I set the group up with the hope of encouraging others to do the same.

Last year I found there to be a lot of negative press regarding motorhomes and campervans with a lot of the littering problems being blamed on us. I found this to be disheartening as I knew that there was a considerable amount of motorhome and campervan owners who actively contribute to keeping beauty spots clean and free of litter, so I set up Motorhomes and Campervans Against Litter.

Tell us how the group's developed since you set it up?

Determined to be proactive, I set the group up last summer and had a lot of interest initially. However, as the lockdown restrictions have eased I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of members joining the group (4500 members have joined in the last week - taking us to over 8,000 members!), all of them passionate about showing they are part of the solution and not the problem. We have vehicle stickers, hi-vis jackets, t-shirts and hoodies to make it clear to residents and locals that we are against littering and that we are doing our bit to clean up after others and protect where they live. We organise group litterpicks too.

What do you hope to achieve with the group?

I really hope it helps to protect the local environment and wildlife in the beautyspots we visit and also helps to improve the public’s perception of motorhomes and campervans. My dream is for locals to welcome and encourage us to visit nature spots as it will be known that we will leave their home even more beautiful than when we arrived. Unfortunately, there are more and more ‘No overnight parking’ signs being put up which I feel is a shame and a missed opportunity when we could help keep these places clean and welcoming for day visitors.

Why Facebook?

I was inspired by a popular anti-litter dog walking group and thought it would be a good way to reach as many motorhome and campervan owners as possible to encourage them to help in the fight against litter. Members of the group post photos of the litter picks they have done on their travels to inspire others and keep the group motivated.

What sort of people are in the group? 

We have a good mix of ages from those in the 13-17 age bracket to 65+. At the time of writing 58.4% were women, 41.3% were men and 0.4% custom (pages/companies). We have members are from all over the world including UK, Ireland, Australia, Spain, America, Belgium and Germany.

We also have a number of motorhome and campervan rental companies in the group who are keen to educate and encourage their customers to protect the places that they visit by not littering.

Some of our members have never litter picked before and haven’t even collected their motorhome or campervan yet, but have bought litter picking equipment ready for their first trip!

How long have you had your van, what van is it and where do you like to go?

I bought ‘Christine’ my VW T5 (ex AA) campervan 6 years ago. Luckily it had already been converted when I bought it so we could start exploring straight away.

So far we have travelled around England and Scotland. We love visiting National Parks and have been to:

  • North Yorkshire Moors National Park
  • Yorkshire Dales National Park
  • Lake District National Park
  • Northumberland National Park
  • Peak District National Park
  • South Downs National Park
  • The Broads
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

We especially love trips to the Lake District, as we are in the process of climbing all of the Wainwrights. We look forward to visiting Wales in the future.

How big do you think the problem with litter is in our National Parks and other beauty spots?

Sadly I think it is an increasing problem all over the UK, including in National Parks and beauty spots but I feel positive that our group can help make a difference to these areas.

Do you think campervans get a bad reputation when it comes to litter?

Unfortunately, I think the actions of a minority have resulted in our reputation being tarnished. During lockdown I frequently litter picked along my local beach and on the two car parks situated on the headland, which prior to the pandemic was very popular with motorhomes and campervans. Despite no motorhomes or campervans being present during this period there was still frequently a mountain of litter to collect which suggests that motorhomes are often being wrongly blamed for littering.

What actions can campervan owners take to help tackle litter?

Motorhomes and campervans must always follow the Countryside Code and leave no trace of their visit. On board waste must always be disposed of responsibly at designated facilities. No rubbish or litter should be left behind and our group encourages members to go that bit further and take other peoples litter away with them too to leave the area tidier than when they arrived.

Is there anything you need from National Park authorities?

I would like National Park authorities to be aware of our initiative and to consider this when deciding on whether to prohibit motorhome and campervans from parking overnight.

Many group members are keen to volunteer their time to help with litter picking and environmental projects and it would be great if more overnight parking spots could be created to facilitate this. It would also be beneficial for more waste facilities to be provided to encourage responsible disposal.

It would be great if they could work with Campaign for Real Aires UK (CAMpRA) to provide more aires and waste facilities. CAMpRA are trying to increase the number of safe overnight parking spots for motorhomes and campervans and to encourage spending in small businesses in local areas. They have 20,000 members on Facebook and are a very proactive group. I have also joined up with them and helped with litter picks when they have been doing Sleep Out To Help Out Events.

  • Find out more about Motorhomes and Campervans Against Litter, here.
  • Find out more about the work Campaign for National Parks does to protect and improve National Parks, here.