The litter picker who has walked four-and-a-half times around the earth

Tony Bates
Tony Bates

A litter picker who has walked the equivalent of four-and-a-half times around the earth clearing rubbish will celebrate 30 years in the job this week.

Tony Bates, 47, began working for Cherwell District Council in 1984 after his father Tom, who worked as refuse collector, recommended he took over.

Since then, he has covered more than 100,000 miles - including every Christmas Day - to remove an estimated 1,800 tonnes of litter from Bicester.

Mr Bates, who lives in Bicester, said the nature of the job means he often finds some interesting things.

He said: “I regularly find wallets, purses, phones and jewellery but once I found a carrier bag with £650 inside.

“I hand everything in and quite often people come and say thank you.

“One elderly lady wrote me a letter from Newcastle after I found her purse which had been stolen while she was in Bicester.

“The money had been taken but she was desperate to have the purse back so I was pleased I could help.”

Mr Bates starts work before sunrise every morning to ensure the streets are clear of rubbish before people arrive for work.

He spends eight hours a day cleaning the town centre and an extra two hours on both Saturday and Sunday to keep it tidy.

“I’m a workaholic,” said Mr Bates. “I enjoy going out, picking up the rubbish and keeping Bicester clean.

“I know a lot of people in the town, I’ve enjoyed chatting and helping them over the years and I am looking forward to continuing here for a lot longer and hopefully carrying on doing a good service for the council.”

His manager Paul Devine said: “Tony is a very popular and important part of our team who is well respected by his colleagues.

“We have received many messages of thanks from members of the public who have come into contact with him which relate to his pleasant and helpful nature.”