A lonely litter bin in Essex that became an overnight viral sensation on Facebook is now helping to raise awareness around the important issues of social isolation and loneliness.

The Facebook campaign was created by local resident Simon Harris, who spotted the bin in Spa Road, Hockley which had been cut off from the local community while Essex & Suffolk Water carried out a mains replacement scheme.


The plight of ‘Eric, the Loneliest Bin in the World′ soon reached far wider than Hockley, with 46,000 people across the world seeing the Facebook page in just two days.


One of the people to notice the Facebook page was an Essex & Suffolk Water team member working on the scheme, who after hearing Eric′s story arranged for the barriers to be moved so he could be reunited with the local community. Local residents were delighted with this development, and Eric was even pictured celebrating with a glass of fizz!


While Eric′s story has a happy ending, Simon is keen to use the tale as an opportunity to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation, which are serious issues and can lead to other health problems, particularly amongst older people.


Essex & Suffolk Water also wants to provide additional support to those require it, and in recognition of Eric′s story will be making a donation to the Befriending Scheme run by the Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services (CAVS).


The scheme works in the Castle Point and Rochford districts, providing fully trained volunteer befrienders to visit those who may be feeling lonely or isolated, and helping them feel part of the local community.


The company also plans to work closely with CAVS to provide more volunteering opportunities for its employees through its ‘Just an Hour′ staff volunteering scheme. For more information on CAVS visit http://www.castlepointavs.org.uk/.


David Aland, Head of Customer & Network Services for Essex & Suffolk Water said: "We certainly didn′t expect our works to cause such a stir on social media, but it′s great to see that Eric the Bin is having a positive impact. Our people were keen to do something in recognition of this, and hopefully our donation to the CAVS Befriending Service will help support those who may be feeling lonely or isolated. As a company we always want to ensure that people in our local communities who require some extra support get the help they need."


Essex & Suffolk Water offers a range of free priority services to customers that require it, including assistance with reading meters and understanding bills, a password scheme to stop bogus callers and ensuring that bottled water is provided if there is an interruption to supply. For more information see www.eswater.co.uk/priority


To stay up to date with Eric′s adventures visit www.facebook.com/ericthelonelybin/