‘I’ve cleaned up people’s litter for 25 years – now I’m told I need a licence’

A local hero who has spent 25 years cleaning up litter says he's been left "embarrassed" and "emotional" after being told he needs a licence to dump the waste he collects. Frank Sparkes, also known as the North Wall Cleaner, started his clean-up mission in 1998 and has been dedicated to keeping the area tidy ever since.

Frank, a former painter and decorator, began his clean-up efforts as part of a youth community project. He loved the work so much that he continued even after the project ended. But now, after winning an award for his efforts, he's been told he can't dump the collected waste without a licence.

Frank who has been cleaning up his neighbourhood for 25 years told Grimsby Live: "I do a lot of sea fishing on the wall and when I saw the amount of rubbish I thought, 'This is bad', and I got involved with the Lifestyle Project. All summer holidays me and the kids went out, and it helped the kids and kept them off the streets."

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He continued: "I do a lot of sea fishing on the wall and when I saw the amount of rubbish I thought, 'This is bad', and I got involved with the Lifestyle Project. All summer holidays me and the kids went out, and it helped the kids and kept them off the streets." But after they returned to school, Frank couldn't let go of his mission to clean up.

Frank, who also tackles rubbish and fly-tipping in Nunsthorpe estate, recently won the Environmental Impact Award at the Civic Awards 2023. However, he claims that since his win, he's no longer allowed to take collected items to Grimsby Recycling Centre – something he's done for the past 25 years.

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The North East Lincolnshire Council website praised Frank for his "for selfless work looking after the North Wall in Cleethorpes for over 20 years keeping the area clean and fly tipping free". On winning the award, Frank said: "It was absolutely fantastic. When I won that award it felt like Christmas. I was so emotional, when my name came up I couldn't believe it, it's so nice that I'm getting so much support."

But now, Frank says he's facing issues at the tip. "They watch everything I do. I was taking mattresses and house waste before, and now I can't take them, and I've been turned away three times." "They're saying that because I've entered into the streets I'm classed as commercial now, so I'll need a special Waste Carrier Licence. But I'm not a business and everything's coming out of my own pocket, it's a passion of mine and I just want to make a difference."

Frank is still visiting the North Wall and picking up what he can in his smaller trailer, but is forced to leave larger, bulky items due to the tip not accepting them. He has been forced to leave his larger trailer – which was sponsored by local organisation CPO – outside Centre 4 in Nunsthorpe, full of bulky items he can't take to the recycling centre.

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"I call it a scout day, I come down and see what's going on and I see all this rubbish and I have to just leave it there now," he said. "It's so emotional, I go down that wall and see rubbish I can't take and I know I can't take it, but I can't rest until I can pick it up because I know when I go again it'll just get built up and built up and the fly tipping will start again. I've saved birds in nets and all sorts down there, it's not just fly tipping, I'm saving the wildlife too."

"It hurts me. It's been like this since I won the award," Frank said. "Giving me an award for what I do and then saying I can't do it, it's embarrassing. I've done it for so long, mainly on my own. I feel as if I'm being targeted."

Frank shared that after a chat with North East Lincolnshire Council reps, he feels "educated" and gets why they won't let him dump certain rubbish. He said: "For 25 years I was unscathed, because nobody [at the tip] knew what I was disposing of. The lads used to say to me, 'What have you got in there?' and I just used to say, 'general waste' because I thought it was. But apparently it's not, it's fly-tipping waste."

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"The Council educated me in a lot of ways, and I respect that. We can all work together." Now, Frank is raising money to hire a skip once a month for dumping heavier items, so he can keep doing his job as the North Wall Cleaner. "It will cost £225 a skip and I don't have that sort of money. I've got a lot of fantastic support, but I need the funding," he added.

A spokesperson from North East Lincolnshire Council praised Frank: "Frank does a great job getting rid of litter and we really appreciate the time and effort he puts in to making the borough a better place. We don't set the legislation relating to waste management, that's done by central government. Under the rules, fly-tipped waste is treated differently to littering and this is where we need to make sure we all abide by the legislation."

"We are happy to speak with Frank and look at how we can work together to resolve this."

* This article was crafted with the help of an AI tool, which speeds up Daily Star's editorial research. An editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]

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