Litter Picking Drop-Ins – A New Approach to Litter Picking During Lockdown

We are all adjusting to the new normal, but what does that mean for litter picking? Gone are the days when we could arrange a community litter-picking event and invite as many people as possible to get involved. Now we must consider new legislation, distancing measures, and increased risks.

A new approach was needed and the idea of the litter picking drop-in’s stations was born. This concept has been installed by several local authorities across the UK and here at Helping Hand Environmental, we would like to share with you Manchester City Council’s Litter Picking Drop-Ins case study – in support of the Keep Manchester Tidy initiative and Keep Britain Tidy’s Love Parks campaign.

How does it work?

Initially the council selected a small number of parks to work in across the city. At each park set up a litter picking station. The local authority invited people to come along through social media and linked the activity to a wider campaign; Love Parks.

Setting out the station

The litter picking station itself was quite simple and comprised of;

  • A table with PPE and hand sanitiser
  • Litter pickers arranged individually (so people only touch the one they will use)
  • Bag hoops and bags
  • A container for people to deposit the equipment they have used
  • Sanitising wash and wipes to clean equipment after use
  • Promotional banner and flag promoting Keep Manchester Tidy
  • One or two friendly station managers to engage potential volunteers (at a distance)
  • Tape or small barrier to help maintain distancing at the station
  • An up to date risk assessment

Council staff manned the station and invited people to come along between 10 am and 2 pm. They could take equipment and pick litter for as long or as short a time as they wished. They asked that people acted as either solo litter pickers, social bubble litter pickers, or small group litter pickers of no more than six socially distanced people – making arrangements for people to either return collected litter to the station, or to other designated points across the City.

What worked well?

The litter picking stations were a success. This is what people liked about them:

  • Flexibility of being able to turn up to suit, as opposed to having to meet somewhere at a fixed starting time
  • Flexibility to pick for just a short while. This meant people didn’t feel guilty about leaving a group early or not doing enough for the group. People were also surprised about how much litter can be collected in a short space of time
  • Full compliance with coronavirus regulations
  • Greater inclusivity with no pressure to be part of a group – including  several disabled people getting involved who would not have otherwise have joined an organised litter pick.
  • Many of those who took a litter picker had conversions with other members of the public. This proved to be a good way to promote the profile of litter picking as a positive and valuable community activity. Volunteers told us how they were thanked for their litter picking work by passers-by.
  • We thought that when the public see volunteers doing litter picking, as opposed to paid council workers, it acts as a nudge for them to do the right thing and not drop litter. Volunteers agreed with this thought.

What Were the Challenges?

Manchester City Council faced very few challenges in using this approach. The weather being too wet or very hot did reduce the numbers of people visiting the station, but not significantly. They did have to remain vigilant about social distancing; when people became passionate about cleaning up they sometimes forgot that they needed to maintain their distance.

Keeping it Working

The local authority have continued to deliver litter picking through drop in stations. Partnering with their colleagues in Biffa to add information and resources about recycling to our stations and this has proved popular in attracting passers-by to visit the station.

2021 Plans

Manchester City Council’s  next plan is to use this approach to test litter-picking stations in district centres and other urban spaces and host the drop ins for corporate groups and large organisations to support their Keep Manchester Tidy initiative.

How we lent a Helping Hand to this project?

We have been Manchester City Council key supplier of sustainable litter clearance hand tools in support of their community engagement projects for over the last 10 years including Love Parks, Keep Manchester Tidy and their new Litter picking Drop In Stations.

Our safer litter collection range as helped Emma and her council colleagues to support their volunteers wth social distance litter picks safely – including our folding litter pickers, disenfectant sprays and NEW Handicart Duo helps to support safer litter segregation across the City.