Create a cleaner community

Whether your community has a local fly tipping hot spot, abandoned cars, a littered play area or derelict buildings, there’s ways to help combat the issue.

Living in a clean community helps us to feel proud of our neighbourhood, helps promote awareness of our contribution to waste and helps us feel safe.

This guide will provide you with the steps and important information on how to create a cleaner community for you, your family or clientele to reside in.

Pinpoint the area for your clean up

Choose which area you’d like to use for for your clean up. You could choose to clean up and enhance a local landmark, or take action on a well known ‘grot spot’.

Wherever you choose to perform your activities, it is important that you obtain permission from the landowner prior to your attendance. Even if you wish to pick up litter on local authority owned land, you will need to ask permission well in advance of your event as the process for approval may take time.

Another important step for you to take before your event is to make arrangements for removing any waste that you’ve collected. Usually your local authority can help by collecting the rubbish or providing a skip.

If you decide to remove any waste yourself, make sure you are able to dispose of it at your local civic amenity site. However, if you choose a commercial waste company to collect the waste or deliver a skip, they will charge you for the service and may want to know what the waste is made up of.

Carry out a risk assessment

Visit the site you’ve chosen and carry out a full risk assessment. When assessing the risks, remember to look for the following hazards:

  • Unidentified cans or canisters;
  • Oil drums;
  • Hazardous substances;
  • Broken glass;
  • Condoms;
  • Syringes;
  • Deep or fast flowing water;
  • Steep, slippery, or unstable banks;
  • Sharp rocks;
  • Mud holes;
  • Traffic movement;
  • Derelict buildings;
  • Electric fences (which are identified by yellow warning signs).
  • If the area carries too many risks for you and your group, it’s advisable to choose somewhere else to carry out your clean up.

Carry out a wildlife survey

Please ensure that you investigate your designated area for wildlife that may be affected by your presence. Although your aim is to improve your community, your actions may have an negative impact on the wildlife that resides there.

You can use this information to start another project if you wish. If the area that you’re working on has space that can be used to promote wildlife then this could be a sideline. (Plant some wild flowers to attract local bees or construct some bird boxes)

Check out our quick guide to carry out a wildlife survey.

Get some help

Before you carry out any work, it may be wise to seek advice from your local authority’s environment department.

They may be able to offer guidance on your clean up and even offer you equipment or free waste disposal for all materials collected.

Involve the community

To be successful, a clean up should involve as many different sections of the community as possible. If you are planning a large scale clean up you could even gain support from other groups in your area. These could include the Scouts, Guides, civic societies, tenants’ associations, sports clubs or environmental groups.

You could approach and involve local residents in your clean up either by leafleting, calling at homes, or through attending residents’ groups.

Don’t forget to promote your project by putting up posters in the local area or sending out a press release to your local media well in advance of your event, giving details of whom to contact and how people can get involved.

You can also contact your local volunteer centre if you need additional people to help with the event.

Equipment and preparation

Depending on the nature, type and size of your event, the following arrangements may have to be made and equipment organised before your clean up. Your local authority may be able to help you with some of the following.

Equipment needed could include:

  • Litter-pickers;
  • Bag holders;
  • Heavy-duty gloves;
  • Refuse sacks;
  • Wheelbarrows;
  • Skip(s);
  • Vehicles for larger items;
  • Rakes and shovels;
  • Broken glass, sharp metal, etc. will break through refuse sacks and may cause injury. Have safe containers for their collection if you are removing this type of litter;
  • For any scale of clean up event, you must have a first aid kit and antibacterial wipes (remember to let your volunteers know who the first-aider is);
  • For a large scale event you could contact your local ambulance service or voluntary first aid organisations, such as the Red Cross and St John Ambulance for advice. They may even be able to provide cover and assistance;
  • If you are likely to come across hypodermic needles or drug-related litter, have a contact number for your local authority who will organise a rapid response service for their removal. Do not touch these yourselves;
  • A skip or other means or efficient removal of collected rubbish after your event is useful;
  • If supervisors need to stay in touch, mobile phones or walkie-talkies will be required.

Make a list of useful equipment and work out who will provide what whilst checking if any volunteers can provide their own equipment.

As an organiser, you will have visited the site and done a risk assessment together with a wildlife survey before the event. It can be very helpful to make a sketch map of the area to be tackled.

Identify key locations on the map and use this on the day to show different groups where they should be working, the set up for the day and the facilities available.

Informing, instructing and organising

All volunteers will need to be informed and instructed prior to the event. Depending on the nature, size and type of your event, this may include:

  • Health and safety issues;
  • Where and what time to meet;
  • The agreed routes and event procedures;
  • How to use any equipment provided;
  • First aid arrangements;
  • Advise volunteers in advance to dress for the occasion;
  • Location of toilet facilities and refreshments;
  • The location of the nearest telephone or access to a mobile phone.

Publicity and fundraising

Use a press release or contact your local paper to obtain media coverage for your event. Take before, during and after photographs of your event to send to your local press if they do not turn up.

We’ll be more than happy to promote your press releases via enviroforum.

Depending on the size of your community clean up, you may find that you need to fundraise and secure funds in order to carry out the event.

Don’t forget to visit WCVA for up to date information on current funding opportunities.

You local authority might also be able to help you and offer you some funding to support your activities, as will the funding officer at your local development agency.

You could approach local companies to help provide the necessary equipment for your event.

On the day

On the day of your event there will be a lot to plan and organise. To make this easier appoint an event co-ordinator who will:

  • Brief on emergency procedures;
  • Organise volunteers into teams;
  • Distribute and collect equipment;
  • Specify where rubbish should be left; and
  • Collect survey forms (if used).

As a group don’t forget to enjoy yourselves and to take lots of pictures to record the successes of the day.

Important Advice

When carrying out a neighbourhood clean-up project, there are important aspects like health and safety to consider. Avoiding danger is the most important thing:

Hazardous waste : Make sure everyone is aware of potentially dangerous items which they should not pick up. If nasty or dangerous pieces of litter are spotted at any stage during your litter pick, do not attempt to move them yourself. Make a note of their location and inform your local authority.

Natural dangers : Avoid holding your litter pick near potentially dangerous places. Line pins and tape can be used to section off any dangerous areas. For a large operation, a loud hailer can be useful to warn participants to stay within the designated area.

Working with children : Consider the ages of the children involved in your clean up and make sure that a sufficient number of adults are present to supervise. In the case of young children we advise no more than four children to one adult. Before you clean up, make sure children understand which items are potentially dangerous and should not be picked up. Do not let children attempt to pick up heavy or bulky items.

Working near water : If you have to work near water liaise with the appropriate bodies, for example, the Environment Agency, local water companies and lifeguards to check whether there are any possible hazards.

Working near roads and lay-bys : Try not to work near roads and in lay-bys. If however it is unavoidable, restrict groups to work on footpaths and verges in areas with a 40mph speed limit and below. Ask volunteers to wear fluorescent armbands, and exhibit warning signs at either end of the stretch of road while work is in progress.

Be considerate: If you are working in the country, parks, woodland or open spaces avoid disturbing animals or damaging plants. Keep gates closed and don’t clean up natural ‘rubbish’ such as logs, stones and weeds. Before your clean up, get some advice from a wildlife expert such as a conservation officer at your local Wildlife Trust.

Other issues to consider:

Recycling : It is good practice to recycle the litter you’ve collected, if at all possible. Contact your local authority’s recycling officer for advice on whether certain materials should be collected separately, where they should be taken on how they should be disposed.

Insurance : Obtaining Public Liability Insurance is very important and not very expensive. This will provide cover for any legal liability arising from accidental damage or injury that occurs during the event, including damage or injury to a member of the public or their property.

If you represent an organisation such as a local authority or school it is possible that you already have insurance in place, but it is important to check that litter picks/activity is covered under such insurance.