Litter picking

Litter is a growing problem with an estimated 25 million tonnes per year dropped in Britain alone. 

This amount of litter is an eyesore spoiling the environment as well as being a potential hazard to adults, children and pets. Most places of worship will clear litter around the premises perhaps as part of routine maintenance however many will also organise community litter picking around the wider area. This places employees and volunteers at risk of exposure to hazards.

People undertaking litter picks should always use the following items:

  • litter pickers to avoid direct contact with litter and repetitive bending. Your council can often supply them, or you can purchase your own;
  • gloves to minimise contact with any noxious or dangerous materials;
  • suitable clothing and footwear; and
  • reflective hi-visibility waistcoats to clearly highlight people to traffic and pedestrians.
  • glass – remove using a litter picker or a brush and shovel, avoiding contact by hand, and dispose of in a sturdy container;
  • drug related litter/ hypodermics – these should not be moved. Note the location and report to your supervisor for specialist removal;
  • unknown materials and fly tipping – items that are possibly dangerous such as unknown liquids in containers, building materials or asbestos should not be moved. Report to your supervisor for specialist removal. If there is a large amount of fly tipping you should notify your local council.
  • An inspection should take place before work starts, to determine an agreed safe working area. A risk assessment should be carried out to establish the risks and to identify and note other possible hazards.
  • Roadside litter picking should only be carried out where there are wide verges or pavements which are suitable for pedestrians and undertaken whilst facing oncoming traffic.
  • High visibility waistcoats to be worn.
  • This should only take place in clear daylight.
  • People should not attempt to clear litter from a carriageway.
  • Avoid reaching into hedges or undergrowth in such a way as to expose the face, eyes and skin to scratches from thorns or branches. If an item of litter cannot be safely reached with a litter picker, leave it and report its location to your supervisor. Avoid working close to rivers or on steep slopes, as there is an increased risk of slips and falls. When working close to ditches, avoid reaching into the ditch to remove litter, unless it can be safely reached with a litter picker.
  • Be mindful of wildlife. In the springtime avoid disturbing animals and birds that may be nesting.
  • Do not enter an area, or attempt to litter pick an area, where works are restricted, are already taking place (for example road works) or where the public do not have a right to entry.

People should be made 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.
  • Decide if an item can be safely moved either by one or two people.
  • 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.