AS SPRING ARRIVES, in hopes of spending more time outdoors, many local communities come together to support the annual Great British Spring Clean campaign.

East Hampshire is no exception, and I was delighted to join the Alton Society litter selection team again – seeing its largest ever turnout, with 76 adults and children taking part this year – and collecting more than 70 bin bags of abandoned waste.

Supported by many local organizations including Alton Climate Action Network, Alton Lions, Herald of AltonAlton Town Council, along with local residents’ associations and local businesses, is a great example of community life in action.

And I’m also looking forward to the Petersfield Society’s Clean Up event in a few weeks – a chance to spruce up the town ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Also coming in May is The Big Plastic Count, an opportunity to get involved in a household plastic waste tracking initiative. For one week (May 16-22), people will count all the plastic packaging they throw in the trash or recycle, contributing to a nationwide data study.

The government last week announced plans to help save money for households disposing of DIY waste, so there would be no more charges for disposing of rubbish, including items such as plasterboard, brickwork and bath units.

The move aims to help reduce fly tipping, which is a crime that ravages communities, including many here in East Hampshire.

Fly tipping not only poses a risk to public health and the environment, but also generates significant clearance efforts and costs for local authorities and private landowners.

In recent years, the expanded powers of local authorities to combat illegal dumping have been strengthened. They can now seize the vehicles of offenders and impose fixed fines of up to £400 on fly-out tippers and households who take their waste to an unlicensed hauler.

Waste crime costs the UK £924million a year, with organized criminals profiting from illegally exporting waste overseas or dumping it in our countryside and towns.

A new, stricter registration system for people working in the waste industry will lead to increased background and competency checks on anyone moving or trading waste.

The introduction of mandatory digital waste tracking is also planned, which will overhaul the current system and help trace waste back to its source and hold those involved accountable.

The Environment Act also includes new powers to step up action on plastic pollution and waste, and the findings of consultations on the banning of a range of other single-use plastic items in England and l introduction of a deposit system are currently under consideration.

UK consumers consume around 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, nine billion drinks cans and five billion glass bottles a year, and getting people to recycle bottles and cans will help reduce the amount of waste.

We all have the power to reduce our plastic consumption, but also the responsibility for its elimination.

Taking extra action, as individuals, as households and also as communities, is an essential part of the national effort – and it can start with simply picking up litter while walking down a street or enjoying the country.

East Hampshire is fortunate to have many civic groups, as well as school communities, who support initiatives that not only reduce environmental impact, but also encourage us to reuse or recycle items.

The COP26 East Hampshire event highlighted much of this effort and that what we do locally matters.

I encourage everyone to be part of the solution, whether it’s making changes at home or at work, or possibly joining others to make a difference in a community.