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Meet our Local Changemakers

Making positive change through grassroots action across Merton

Meet the every day heroes amongst us, going above and beyond to reduce waste and preserve our neighbourhoods and planet.


Know someone in your circle that helps others in the community reduce, reuse and recycle waste? Please share their story with us and we will happily shout about it here.

# weRpollards


I recently had the pleasure of meeting the ‘waste champions’ of the #weRpollards project- a group
of residents from the MOAT social housing estate in Pollards Hill. They are an enthusiastic bunch from all walks of life (different ages, genders, ethnicities and personal circumstances) who have come together to support an initiative to reduce waste and improve recycling rates on the estate. Over the last few years, due to various reasons, the occurrence of large amounts of waste has become a social issue on the estate. This group of residents, responded to a request for volunteers to be part of this pioneering project.


Like them, their motivations to respond were different too- some wanted to bring back lost civic pride, some wanted to help their community and some wanted to make new friends in their neighbourhood but the one thing they had in common was their belief in working together to achieve something that had a lasting positive impact.

Together, they will be working on public engagement initiatives based on a range of activities such
as communications campaigns, improved and better signage on bins, litter picks and other hands-on
community events to improve residents’ knowledge of recycling. The project will also include repair
cafes and upcycling workshops through which residents can learn how to share, reuse, repair and repurpose items instead of throwing them away (and save money!). Ever wondered if you are putting the quadrillion everyday items from used coffee cups to crisp packets, tetrapaks and fruit containers into the right bin- ie general waste or recycling? whether they need to be bagged up or remain loose and feel confused from the information overload on recycling? This project will really help to demystify all these questions!

Nothing about this project is easy, starting with the waste audit of the communal bins but they continue to
encourage one another and persevere. Volunteer meetups happen twice a month. These, along with
other responsibilities requires a time commitment of around 1-4 hours per month. Work, family and life happen alongside.


We are grateful for the efforts of the unsung heroes amongst us, whose contributions add up together to become big positive changes for the community as a whole. If you or someone you know lives on the MOAT housing estate at Pollards Hill and would like to be part of the project please feel free to get in touch with


Praful Patel

Praful is a local resident of many years who ran his own repair business. He used to offer repair services to some of the big name electrical brands. Because of his business, he also carried bits and bobs like wiring, switches and light bulbs which he would often provide to school children for their homework projects. Over the years he saw changes in the industry that ultimately drove out repair services from the U.K and with it, the knowledge and skills! He is surprised and saddened by the throw away culture in today’s society. He heard about The Restart Project a few years ago! And their mission to change our relationship with Things! So over the last 12 months, post retirement, he has been a volunteer repairer for them, regularly repairing electrical items at the Tooting and Putney repair cafes. He has now started helping out at the Merton repair cafes as well! He has a lot of patience to investigate and solve problems and patiently teaches people how to fix their items with a smile on his face. He is very keen to get the younger generation involved in repairs, especially school children. His vision is for every school child to have some basic repair skills like knowing how to check for common issues and doing simple fixes like changing a fuse or plug.

We are grateful for every kilogram of emissions he helps us save by repairing items and every person he is helping to upskill in our community!

Visit our next repair café and see Praful in action.

Alyson Elliott

Alyson is a local resident, passionate about the environment and keen to ensure that she recycles as much as she can of waste material generated. Over time she realised that individually we were still generating a fair amount of rubbish that would inevitably go to landfill - things that aren't picked up in kerbside recycling today. So she started to investigate if there were other solutions for reuse and repurposing such waste.  She became more focused on finding alternative outlets and creative solutions for those items that would otherwise just be thrown away in our general waste.

The list expanded into a detailed spreadsheet which she methodically populated over time and now forms a significant part of the Wheel’s signposts! In addition to this, Alyson has also contributed to Sustainable Merton's soon to be released, waste handbook, along with other community champions. We are grateful for the curious scientist in Alyson and her willingness and tenacity to create positive change in her community. 

So, how can a list like this evolve?  Whilst it is a useful tool, she notes that it relies on people searching for items they want reused, repaired or recycled.  Her hope is that over time, this vast array of information is further simplified and combined with processes and services that allow reuse, repair and recycling to be more easily adopted than it is today.  Alyson also hopes that access to improved information on this subject will encourage people to make more changes and become drivers for change themselves.

It is important that like Alyson we all keep asking the questions and looking for answers that will eventually lead to positive changes around us.


Lucy Odekeye and neighbours


Lucy Odekeye, a working mother of 2,  lives in Mitcham, a part of Merton, which, like many other parts of the U.K is plagued by the issue of fly-tipping or illegal waste dumping. The problem really annoys and frustrates her and her neighbours. But rather than just report it to the council and feel helpless, they have been doing something about it.


For over 3 years, along with their families, they have been organising regular litter picks in the area to keep the neighbourhoods clean.  Not just that, they have also actively participated in community planting initiatives over the last 2 years to do under tree planting to encourage pollinators and discourage fly-tippers. In recent times, the issue has become more of a struggle but they still persevere! After all if bad habits can persist, so can good!


We are bowled over by their determination to repeatedly take the time, effort and resources to reduce waste in the community despite having competing priorities and challenges in their lives like the rest of us. Can we all do a little bit more and waste a little bit less?

Zaqiya Cajee & the SwopItUp team

Zaqiya is a young Merton resident who founded SwopItUp, a charity that helps secondary school students to tackle the climate challenge in their unique way- organising clothes swops in their schools and expressing themselves through creative content that raises awareness on the climate challenge.


She started this journey when she was 15 by providing secondary schools the information and toolkit needed to organise clothes swops within the school premises! Four years on, she has inspired a number of other young people who have joined the core team of SwopItup or volunteer with them to spread their mission. Zaqiya did all this while studying for her GCSEs and A levels. She understands the issue of climate anxiety that a lot of young people today face and feels that being engaged and taking action is the best remedy.


We are in awe of her vision and drive from such a young age and proud of the work that she has done. 

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Our waste reduction community is growing thanks to the dedication and talent of Merton Residents. Find out more about what the community has been getting up to in our blog posts.

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