Richmond Park conservationists have asked cyclists taking part in organised events to dispose of litter more responsibly. Recent post-mortems of some deer found their stomachs contained a large volume of litter that could not be digested and which then denied the animals the nutrition they needed.
It is estimated that around five deer a year are killed as a result of eating discarded rubbish and The London Evening Standard reports that events such as RideLondon and the London Duathlon have been identified as times when a lot of gel wrappers and the like are discarded.
Richard Gray, trustee of the Friends of Richmond Park, said:
“It’s a real health issue. What we have identified with these two particular races is this phenomenon of the gel packs. Lots of our members are cyclists, I’m a cyclist, but you get a number of slightly more selfish cyclists who aren’t getting rid of it responsibly.
“They are doing the Tour de France thing, seeing people tear off their gel packs and spitting them out. But unlike other races, it doesn’t get picked up. It’s a new phenomenon, particularly because so many more people are taking up competitive endurance cycling and use gel packs.”
Friends of Richmond Park said they found 182 gel wrappers and opening strips in just 600m after RideLondon passed through in July. A similar exercise following the London Duathlon on Sunday saw more than 160 empty gel packs left behind in the same area.
RideLondon organisers admitted there had been a communication issue with litter patrol teams after this year's event but also said they were considering installing cameras on the route next year to identify and ban those who litter.
Friends of Richmond Park chairman Ron Crompton welcomed greater prevention measures and said he hoped that the duathlon organisers would also make efforts to ensure that all competitors were clear that this sort of behaviour was unacceptable.
“Finding this large extent of litter 24 hours after the event is very worrying for the Park's wildlife and particularly the deer. The irresponsible disposal of gel energy bar packaging and their tear-off opening strips seem to be creating a particular problem,” he said.