Organising your own litter pick

Helpful hints and safety advice for litter pickers organising their own clean up.

Planning ahead

Decide where you would like to hold your litter pick, and choose a date and time that is suitable for your volunteers as well. You could clean up and enhance a local landmark, or take on a 'black spot' in the Borough. Get permission from the landowner for your activities. If you wish to litter pick on council-owned land you will have to ask permission in advance of your event, please e-mail environmentvolunteers@poole.gov.uk to begin this process.

Essential contacts

Email our environmental services team to advise them of what you are planning to do. They are able to offer advice, help with promoting of the event, and may be able to put you in touch with other volunteers in the area. They can also provide gloves, litter pickers, and black sacks for your event as well as arranging for the disposal of your collected waste upon completion.

You could also look to target local companies who may be able to support your clean up by providing materials, services or a donation.

Call for volunteers: The clean-up crew

Try to get as many people, of all ages, to join in with your clean up. You may already be part of a group, so involve them at the planning stage and make it a team effort. Schools, scouts, environmental groups, and faith groups are just a few of the many organisations who may be interested in making an impact on their local environment and may want to help out. Nearer the event, establish a meeting point where people can meet on the day, ideally a well-known spot, which will be familiar to everyone.  

Publicise your event

Use posters, word of mouth and social media to advertise your event locally and attract volunteers. Hit the headlines: your clean up event is an excellent opportunity for you, your group or organisation to get some publicity. Approach the local press, TV and radio. Alert them at least one week before the event. Invite them along and if they are unable to cover the event, why not send them a brief story and photograph afterwards. Remember, an unusual event, celebrity participation, a good photo opportunity or newsworthy story are more likely to attract media coverage.

Equipment

Make a list of equipment and work out who will provide what. You will need a supply of rubbish sacks and as well as litter pickers, gloves and potentially litter hoops. Check if any volunteers can provide their own equipment. Line pins and tape can be used to section off any potentially dangerous areas. Walkie-talkies or a mobile phone could be useful if dealing with large areas.

Preparations and precautions

Before the event, visit the site and make a note of any particularly littered areas and the location of a waste collection point. Make a note of the nearest toilets and any other useful public amenities. This information can then be shared to all the volunteers on the day of the event.

Insurance

Before an event like this you will need to have adequate insurance cover. Many groups will already have their own public liability insurance. If your group does not have insurance or if you are an individual organising an event you may be covered by the Borough of Poole’s cover, however please check with us first. 

Risk assessment

Once you have chosen a location for your clean up, visit the site and carry out a full risk assessment. This is a careful examination of the possible risks that could cause harm to you or your volunteers. When assessing the risks, look for the following hazards:

  • unidentified canisters
  • hazardous waste (oil drums, poisons, insecticides, clinical waste etc.)
  • broken glass
  • condoms
  • syringes
  • deep or fast flowing water
  • currents or tides
  • steep, slippery or unstable banks
  • sharp rocks
  • mud holes
  • derelict buildings
  • busy roads
  • electric fences (identified by yellow warning signs)  

If the area poses too many risks for you and your group it is safest to choose somewhere else.

Hazardous waste

Make sure everyone is aware of potentially dangerous items, which they should not pick up.

If dangerous pieces of litter, such as unidentified drums, cans, canisters of chemicals, poisons, insecticides, or syringes are spotted at any stage during your litter pick, do not attempt to remove them yourself. Make a note of the location and report it  or phone 01202 261700.

Natural dangers

Avoid holding your litter pick near potentially dangerous places such as steep or slippery banks, fast flowing water or derelict buildings. Tape can be used to section off any potentially dangerous areas or areas where hazardous wastes are present. 

Giant Hogweed is an 'injurious weed' that can cause harm to people and animals. Great care should be taken when working near this weed and it should not be touched at any time. Seek medical advice if skin comes into contact with the weed and irritation, rashes or blistering occurs.

Weil's Disease (Leptospirosis) is a very rare infection carried in rats urine and can be fatal. The symptoms include high temperature, severe headaches, and flu like illness or muscle pains. They will appear 3 to 19 days after exposure to contaminated water. It must be treated early.

Be considerate

If you are working in the country, parks, woodland or open spaces avoid disturbing animals or damaging plants. Keep gates closed and do not clean up natural 'rubbish' such as logs, stones and weeds. They may look untidy but they are home to many animals and birds.

Before your clean up get some advice from an expert. Our countryside service may be able to help you or Poole's local branch of Wildlife Trust. Make sure that your activities do not interfere with people in the vicinity who are not involved in the litter pick. In particular, tell your volunteers not to go on to other people's property uninvited. 

Safety 

Before your group begins to litter pick, make sure everyone is aware of hazardous waste items which they should not pick up. Take particular care of children and make sure they are supervised at all times. No more than 3 children to 1 adult is advisable. Do not let children litter pick in areas where hazardous waste is/was present. Do not let children attempt to pick up heavy or bulky items. If you are working along roadsides, rivers or ponds make sure there are responsible people appointed specifically to keep an eye on safety. Do not allow children to wander freely near such areas. 

First aid

It is essential that you have a comprehensive first aid kit at your event and that it is sufficient for the number of volunteers. For larger events you could invite the local branch of the Red Cross or St Johns Ambulance.

Sensible clothing

Advise volunteers well in advance to dress for the occasion. They'll need warm, waterproof clothing and strong, comfortable boots or shoes. Strong hard wearing gloves are essential and fluorescent clothing should be worn if working in poor light or at dusk.

The result

Keep a record of the amount of rubbish you collected. You can do it by sack, weight, or skip load. Make a note of any unusual items you find. Take before and after photographs as these could form the basis of your contact with any local media.

Disclaimer

This guidance is provided in good faith, we do not however accept responsibility for any problems or any injuries or harm as a result of anything stated herein. All events are carried out at your own risk.

Page last updated: 11 April 2019
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