As local government continues to experience budget cuts, there is an even stronger incentive to get communities on board with protecting and maintaining the areas in which they live.
Time for a spring clean? How councils and communities can team up to manage waste

Waste management is perhaps the most visible of council services, particularly when the service is adversely affected, such was the case during the height of the first national lockdown due to COVID-19. In some areas, mounting household waste on the kerbside even led councils to dissuade residents from embarking on spring-cleans for fear of making the problem worse.

But, now that restrictions have eased, and the weather is warming up, there is an opportunity for councils to get communities involved in helping to clean up their local spaces.

Nearly £1 billion of taxes is spent on picking up litter every year,1 with more than two million pieces of litter dropped in the UK every day.2 Apart from the obvious problem of being unsightly, it can take years to degrade, causing harm to wildlife and habitats. Research also shows litter contributes to further crime and that people feel less safe in areas that are littered.3

Supporting community litter picks

There are groups and individuals country-wide who care about these issues and already carry out litter picks in their communities. In some cases, their local council will be assisting them through the supply of litter-picking kits, and/or collecting the waste at the event and taking care of its disposal.

For local councils organising or supporting litter-picking events, the following points should be considered:

  • Supply the necessary kit: Kits should include litter pickers, high visibility vests, gloves and bags. If you are not supplying hand gel, advise participants to bring their own.
  • Waste separation: Advise the group on whether to separate the litter according to type, e.g., plastic bottles, aluminium cans, general waste. If so, provide the appropriate bags.
  • Undertake a risk assessment: Take into account busy roads, bodies of water, slippery grass banks, trip hazards, broken glass, giant hogweed, insecticides, syringes, and other clinical waste, etc. Check for potential areas to take a break or shelter from bad weather, as well as nearby public toilets. If you plan to pick litter in a more remote area, such as a beach, check if there is sufficient mobile phone signal if your communication needs to rely on mobile phone use.
  • Health and safety: Prior to the event, section off any concerning areas with stakes and tape, and warning signs. Ensure there is at least one first aider and first aid kit present, and that the group is briefed on how to safely use the equipment given to them. Cuts and scratches (however small) should be covered with surgical tape or a waterproof plaster, even when gloves are being worn.
  • Hazardous waste: Ensure all participants are aware not to pick up potentially hazardous objects, such as unidentified cans/canisters, sharp objects, syringes and clinical waste, oil drums, chemical containers, or any heavy objects that could cause injury. If dangerous, poisonous or hazardous items are present, contact the Environment Agency.
  • Children: All children taking part should be accompanied by an adult, supervised at all times, and told clearly about the items of waste to leave alone. They should not pick for more than an hour at a time without a break.
  • Recording attendees: A list of the volunteers attending the event should be kept for reference on council files.
  • Public and employers’ liability insurance: If the litter pick is a council-run event, it should be covered by the council’s insurance policy, including cover for volunteers under their employers’ liability insurance. If, however, the council is merely providing litter-picking kits and/order collecting the waste at the end of the event, insurance cover is down to those participating—although it is not compulsory. Some groups, such as charitable organisations or faith groups will have their own public and/or employers’ liability insurance. In any case, the provision of cover should be fully understood before the event takes place.

If you would like to speak to a risk management specialist about a litter pick, or any other event your council is planning or supporting, please get in touch. Alternatively, visit our Public Sector page to find out more about how Gallagher helps local authorities and their communities.

Please note all events must be organised in accordance with COVID-19 secure guidance and government advice applicable at the time of the event.


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