Ealing's volunteer litter squad, LAGER Can, has been honoured with a prestigious award in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary groups.

"We received a beautiful etched crystal dome and a certificate signed by the Queen," said LAGER Can coordinator Cathy Swift who was accompanied by the group's founder Keith Freegard.

Cathy added: "I was alarmed to find myself getting a bit emotional as our citation was read while I was waiting at the altar, not least because this was the very first time I'd been to Westminster Abbey."

Created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the QAVS  recognises exceptional work by volunteer groups in their communities.

LAGER Can - the Litter Action Group for Ealing Residents - was nominated for the award by former Senior Park Ranger Vanessa Hampton. 

Ealing Times: TEAM EFFORT: Litter pickers hard at workTEAM EFFORT: Litter pickers hard at work

"We were assessed for the award last autumn when our membership had grown from 375 to 800 over four months," explained Cathy. 

"It has since grown to over 1,800 members. Our nomination and the rigorous assessment process motivated us to set up a system for monitoring the amount of rubbish we collect, and how many volunteer hours we spend working for LAGER Can."

So far in 2021, LAGER Can members have spent 13,736 hours litter picking and collected enough rubbish to fill 28,605 sacks.

Cathy added: "I'm very much looking forward to showing the certificate to the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make our borough cleaner and greener, and help LAGER Can earn this prestigious award."

Keith Freegard, who founded LAGER Can in 2017, said: "My original expectation was to try to get enough people regularly picking up litter in the Bunny Park and other green spaces in Hanwell, so that my daily dog walks could be 'litter free'. 

"It soon became clear the the litter problem was much more widespread across Ealing borough and also that many more residents wanted to join the clean-up.

"The major growth in membership and scope of activities is really down to Cathy, who has devoted most of her time and energy to the group in the past two years with amazing results."

LAGER Can has achieved success in a number of locations by clearing huge quantities of historic rubbish and looking for tailored solutions to stop it reappearing.

In Northolt a former fly-tipped mound off Compton Crescent has been transformed by residents into a flower garden.

Ealing Times: WHAT A MESS: One fly-tipped site before the group cleaned it upWHAT A MESS: One fly-tipped site before the group cleaned it up

And in West Ealing at a heavily fly-tipped site on Witham Road LAGER Can has intervened to obtain bins for flat tenants who previously had nowhere to leave their rubbish.

Despite LAGER Can's achievements, Keith said London's litter problems are deep-rooted. 

He added: "I don't think there is 'one solution' because litter is really a visible symptom that results from much deeper social problems. 

"Dealing with a lack of pride or respect for our local environment involves areas such as parenting, self-discipline, standards of acceptable behaviour, peer pressure and feeling part of a community. 

"In addition there are lots of practical measures that could reduce littering and fly-tipping - such as more bins, CCTV and some visible enforcement effort."