Here’s everything you need to know to organise a community litter pick, including a free risk assessment, insurance advice, and more.
A community litter pick is a great way to get people involved in looking after the environment.
For many people, picking litter is the very first step they take towards thinking more about the environment and even taking action on climate change. In fact, here’s a little eight or nine-year-old me, picking litter! This was the very first environmental activity I’d ever taken part in, and I guess, you could say that things took off from there.
If you are looking to organise a litter-picking event in your local community, then let me talk you through some of the key considerations you need to make. There are a few important things you need to have in place to make sure your litter pick is well-organised and safe for volunteers.
Whether it is a one-off event in your local community, or you are an established community or voluntary group, I’ve got top tips on risk assessments (including a free downloadable risk assessment), insurance, safety, equipment, planning, and more.
How To Organise A Community Litter Pick
Pick Your Area
If you want to arrange a community litter pick in your area then your first step is to identify a suitable area to pick litter in. For most people looking to pick litter, it is probably the case that you have an area in mind that is particularly prone to litter.
There are many spots that you should avoid. Working beside fast roads – anywhere where the speed limit is above 40 mph – isn’t a safe place to pick litter. If litter is a problem beside fast roads then inform your local council about this. Their operatives will be able to remove this litter in a safe, organised manner.
Picking litter near steep slopes, cliff edges, riverbanks, building sites, and anywhere similar isn’t recommended either. The risk assessment, below, will help you identify other dangerous areas to pick litter.
In any case, the location should be accessible for everyone who wants to take part. Do bear in mind that not everyone will have access to a car, so keeping the litter pick central to your community is generally the most accessible option.
Finally, check who owns the land where you want to pick. This is because if the land is not public land, you will need the landowner’s permission.
Inform Your Local Council
Your next step is to inform the waste department at the local council of your intention to organise a litter pick. Some councils will be able to help you by providing clean-up kits. These may include litter pickers for adults and children and hoops to go on bin bags, to make it easier to put litter into the bags.
Many councils can also remove the litter that has been collected by your community litter pick group. They will give you a location for the litter to be left and a collection date. Most councils require sufficient notice. As such, aim to give your local council at least two weeks’ notice or more, depending on their policies.
Fill In A Community Litter Pick Risk Assessment
Before your litter pick goes ahead, it’s important to fill in a risk assessment. If you are not familiar with risk assessments, then a risk assessment is a document that sets out the risks associated with an activity, and the safeguarding controls you have in place.
Risk assessments are important because they help keep everyone in your community safe. If you are seeking insurance to cover your litter-picking activities, then the risk assessment may also need to be presented to the insurance company. This could be in advance of the activity, or should you need to make a claim.
When you inform your local council about your litter pick, it may well be that they have a litter pick risk assessment that you can use.
If not, then over the years, working in community-led climate change projects, I have written many risk assessments for a variety of different community events. Therefore, I’ve put together a free editable community litter pick risk assessment that you can download here.
I’ve tried to cover all eventualities. However, as with any risk assessment, it’s important to think about the particular area that you will be picking litter in. Before your litter pick, take a walk around the area that you plan to cover. Look out for any additional hazards not covered in the risk assessment template. Add these in, and think about the control measures you will need in place to help mitigate these risks.
Please note, if you have children attending your litter pick, then you may need additional controls in place.
Insurance for Litter Picking
When community groups organise a litter pick, often the landowner or your local council will require that the group has something in place called public liability insurance. This is a type of insurance that can cover any legal costs and compensation payments if your litter pick is, on the very off chance, found to be responsible for the injury of a person, or causes damage to property.
Some insurers might include the liability for volunteers in a public liability insurance policy. Others will require you to have employer liability insurance too, as even though you are working with volunteers, some insurers class volunteers as employees. This type of insurance would cover costs associated with the injury of a volunteer on the litter pick.
If you are part of an existing group, it may well be that you have this kind of insurance in place. If not, I’d recommend asking if another formal group with insurance already in place for their existing activities could take your litter pick under their name.
For example, a local community council, environmental charity, or church might be able to run the litter pick under their name. This would provide cover for your litter pick under their policy, at no additional cost to them or you. Otherwise, it is recommended that you find appropriate insurance for your litter pick.
For litter picking, I would recommend having:
- high visibility vests
- bin bags
- bin bag hoops
- dustpan and brush
- cardboard box for bulky items
If your local council doesn’t have equipment that you can borrow, then ask around. Your local community council or environmental charity may have equipment that you can borrow. Alternatively, ask if any litter picks have recently taken part in the area. If you can find out who organised this, then you may be able to borrow their equipment.
If this isn’t successful, then one option would be to ask local businesses to sponsor your litter-picking activities. This would enable you to purchase litter-picking equipment. In return, you could print their logo on your high-visibility vests.
Another option would be to apply for grant funding. Awards for All would be one such place to try – where you can apply quickly and easily for small amounts of funding. Do note, there are separate Awards For All Programmes for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. There may also be local funds that you might be able to tap into.
As mentioned previously, many local councils will uplift the litter collected by your litter pick. If not, then you will need to consider how best to dispose of the litter collected.
Depending on the volume of litter collected, you may be able to fit this in local community bins. Alternatively, volunteers may be able to take a bag of litter home each to dispose of in their own bins. Alternatively, a volunteer with access to a large car or van may be able to take the litter to your local recycling centre.
If practical, you may wish to sort the litter into recyclable and non-recyclable items, to ensure that no recyclable litter ends up in landfill.
Recruit Volunteers for Your Community Litter Pick
Finally, the last thing you need to do is to recruit volunteers for your community litter pick. If you have a local Facebook group then it’s often effective and free to recruit volunteers there. Not everyone has access to the internet, so do also consider placing posters (where allowed) in your local area.
Encourage people to come along dressed appropriately – wearing thick-soled closed-toe shoes (i.e not sandals or flip flops). Long sleeves and leg coverings are also important.
And before you start your litter pick, collect emergency contact details for your volunteers, and send over a safety briefing for them to read.
Whilst it sounds like a lot to consider, making sure that your litter pick runs safely and successfully, in a well-organised manner is key to getting people to give up their time and come back again to help.