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Litter is unsightly and it devalues the local area, pollutes the environment, causes harm to residents and wildlife and is expensive to clean up. Councils in England spend more than £700 million on street cleaning services every year.

Organised local litter picking

We can support you in organising a litter pick in your local area throughout the year. You can borrow litter picking equipment from us.

Standard equipment hire would include the following:

  • Reflective hi-visibility jackets.
  • Litter picking sticks.
  • Gloves (not currently available due to Covid restrictions).
  • Litter bags.
  • Hoops to hold bags open (these are an additional loan option).

Please note that we are currently loaning litter picking equipment in accordance with current Covid-19 restrictions and advice and applications will be assessed on a case by case basis.

We strongly recommend that you read our guidance carefully before undertaking your litter picking event. Please ensure that you brief all volunteers on health and safety issues and any risks involved prior to the event taking place.

Guidance and advice

Individuals and groups acting as volunteer litter pickers can be exposed to a number of easily avoidable hazards. This guidance has been produced to help volunteers identify these hazards, making their involvement safe and enjoyable. This is a generic risk guide to the type of known hazards and risks that people could face when litter picking. It should be used as guidance only; it is not a substitute for your own assessment of the risks and the control measures that you have put in place.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update

  • Individuals currently shielding, considered in ‘at risk’ groups, displaying symptoms (or in contact with those with symptoms) or have been directly advised to self-isolate should NOT litter pick.
  • In line with government advice, group litter picking activities should be limited to no more than 6 per group.
  • Volunteers are advised to wash hands before and after the event.
  • If available, carry a hand sanitiser or anti-bacterial wipes with you before, during and after the event.
  • Volunteers are advised to provide their own gloves for the event.
  • Volunteers are advised to maintain social distancing, keeping at least one metre apart from other volunteers and members of the public.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to review the government’s COVID guidance on outdoor activities.

Protective Clothing and Equipment

We suggest the following items should be used by volunteers undertaking litter picks:

  • Reflective hi-visibility jackets to clearly identify volunteers to traffic and pedestrians.
  • Litter picking sticks to avoid direct contact with litter and repetitive bending.
  • Gloves to minimise contact with any noxious or dangerous materials.
  • Sturdy and sensible footwear with adequate grip (no open toed footwear).
  • Suitable and weather appropriate clothing.
  • Hoops (to hold bags open) available on request.

General Site Safety and Inspection

The level of risk will vary at each location, so prior to commencing a litter pick, it is recommended that a visual site inspection and risk assessment is carried out to establish the risks and to identify and note other possible hazards. If there is any doubt about the safety of a site or material, then it should be avoided:

  • Litter picking should only be undertaken on footpaths, open spaces or woodlands.
  • It is best practise to work in small groups of two to three volunteers.
  • Take extreme caution when crossing roads and follow the Highway Code.
  • Do not attempt to clear litter from roads.
  • Only litter pick on public land, do not enter private property.
  • Don’t litter pick at height or hard to reach places.
  • Be mindful of wildlife and avoid contact with animals.
  • Don’t overfill bags, making them too heavy to comfortably handle.

Hazardous materials

The following materials may be encountered during litter picks and should be treated with caution. Volunteers should not remove these items, instead note the location and report to the council for specialist removal:

  • Broken glass
  • Needles/drug related litter
  • Dangerous or unknown substances/liquids in containers, building materials or asbestos
  • Fly tipping

If there is any doubt about an item, leave it, and report it to the Council, telephone 01438 242242.

Lifting and Handling Materials

Volunteers should be aware of the risk of injury by carrying bags of collected litter and attempting to lift and carry heavy materials. To avoid injury, the following basic principles of manual handling should be applied:

  • Use litter pickers to prevent constant bending and stretching.
  • Make sure an item is safe to handle with no sharp edges or noxious contents.
  • Only try to move an item if this can be done so without straining.

When lifting an item, bend the legs and keep the back straight.

Collection and Disposal of Litter

The Council can provide refuse bags for the collection of litter. It is important to agree a suitable pick up location for our crews to collect the bagged litter.

All equipment is collected from and returned to: Stevenage Borough Council, Cavendish Road, Stevenage, Herts, SG1 2ET.


Volunteers should not participate in litter picks unless they understand and accept that participation is entirely at their own risk. Volunteers are not working for, or on behalf of, Stevenage Borough Council, therefore the Council will not be held responsible for any loss, damage, personal injury, or inconvenience caused directly or indirectly as a result of the actions and omissions of volunteers participating in litter picks, or as a result of any advice or omission connected to this guidance.

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