Used needles, bottles, condoms and shopping trolleys dumped next to a Leicester shopping centre have been discovered by a band of litter campaigners.

The shocking discovery was made earlier this month by volunteers from the South Leicestershire Litter Wombles who were called to Leicester’s St George’s Shopping Park following tip-offs to major issues in the area. Not accustomed to clearing the city of its litter – the Wombles do the majority of their work in the countryside – the group were taken aback by the sheer scale of the problem before them.

More than 100 bags were required to begin clearing the area, but even that effort only covered a small section of the retail zone. Now, after tackling the shopping park, the Wombles are making yet another call for change, urging people to take the environment seriously.

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The disturbing piles of litter were first seen by the Wombles over the June 4 and 5 weekend, with images from the scene revealing the enormity of the problem. Discovered in the heap were hundreds of discarded cans and bottles, cardboard boxes, abandoned shopping trolleys left dumped in the nearby shrubs and copse and – most troubling – an array of used needles and condoms that had been chucked into the area, putting people at risk.

St George's Shopping Park litter
The sheer scale of the problem shocked volunteers

Scott Gibbins, one of the Wombles, couldn’t believe how bad things were. He said: “I’ve seen some pretty bad places in the past, but they tend to be laybys, not areas like this. It was pretty shocking, I couldn’t believe how much was there.

“As Wombles, we always have to be careful whenever we clear any area, but we had to be really careful with the needles. You just can’t risk it.”

The mountain of litter was tackled last Sunday (June 12), with Scott and the other assembled Wombles needing 151 bags to clear up four small sections in and around St George’s Shopping Park. It’s thought many more would have been required to do a full clear-up of the area.

“When you really think about it, that’s properly shocking,” continued Scott. “That was only from about three or four small areas, not the whole area, so you don’t know how many more would be needed. Who knows how much litter there is there?”

While the retail area was certainly an eye-opener, Scott said that some change was being noticed around the county with the Wombles efforts’ paying dividends. However, he said people still have more to learn.

“We are here to help and definitely around the county we are seeing things beginning to improve. It’s going to take a lot of time though. Education is key and we believe children are taking on board the message. I think they’re the ones who are stopping their parents from littering, so that’s a great step.”

With the scale of littering so bad around St George’s Shopping Park, Scott said the Wombles may now have to return more regularly to the area to ensure it does not get that bad again.

“Hopefully this will make an impact, but it’s on people to change their way. We won’t stop doing our bit, though, and would love to work with the city council on ways to clamp down on the litter. We don’t expect major change from the public to happen overnight, but we hope it will happen in time.”