Top of Page
Brighter Futures Together

Create a cleaner neighbourhood

Use these links to jump to a section
Help spread the word

01. Suggested Activities

These step-by-step guidelines will help you to hold a well-organised, successful and enjoyable community clean up event:

Step 1. Pinpointing your clean up

Decide the area for your clean up. You could clean up and enhance a local landmark, or take action on a well known ‘grot spot’. Always get permission from the landowner for your activities. If you wish to pick up litter on council owned land, you will have to ask permission well in advance of your event as the process for approval may take time.

At an early stage, decide on the arrangements for removing the waste at the end of your event. Usually your local authority will help by collecting the rubbish or providing a skip. If you are removing it yourself, make sure you are able to dispose of it at your local civic amenity site. If a commercial waste company is collecting the waste or delivering a skip, they will charge you money and want to know what the waste is made up of.

Step 2. Risk Assessment

Visit the site and carry out a full risk assessment. When assessing the risks, look for the following hazards:

  • Unidentified cans or canisters;
  • Oil drums;
  • Hazardous substances;
  • Broken glass;
  • Condoms;
  • Syringes;
  • Deep or fast flowing water;
  • Steep, slippery, or unstable banks;
  • Sharp rocks;
  • Mud holes;
  • Derelict buildings;
  • Electric fences (which are identified by yellow warning signs).

If the area carries too many risks for you and your group, choose somewhere else to carry out your clean up.

Step 3. Getting help

Before you carry out any work, seek advice from your local authority’s environment department. They will be able to offer guidance on your clean up and may even be able to offer you equipment or free waste disposal for all materials collected.

Step 4. Community involvement

To be successful, a clean up needs to involve as many different sections of the community as possible. If you are planning a large scale clean up you could generate support from other groups in your area. These could include the Scouts, Guides, civic societies, tenants’ associations and environmental groups.

Approach and involve local residents in your clean up. You could do this by either by leafleting, calling at homes, or through attending residents’ groups. For further ideas visit the factsheet ‘Communicate ideas and information’.

Don’t forget to promote your project. Put up posters in the local area. Send out a press release to your local media well in advance of your event, giving details of whom to contact and how people can get involved. Further advice on how to write a press release is available in the factsheet ‘Communicate ideas and information’.

You might also need to contact your local volunteer centre if you need additional people to help with the event. For further detail on volunteering visit the factsheet ‘Find out about volunteering opportunities in your community’.

Step 5. Equipment and preparation

Depending on the nature, type and size of your event, the following arrangements may have to be made and equipment organised before your clean up. Your local authority will be able to help you with some of the following. Equipment needed could include:

  • Litter-pickers;
  • Bag holders;
  • Heavy-duty gloves;
  • Refuse sacks;
  • Wheelbarrows;
  • Skip(s);
  • Vehicles for larger items;
  • Rakes and shovels;
  • Broken glass, sharp metal, etc. will break through refuse sacks and may cause injury. Have safe containers for their collection if you are removing this type of litter;
  • For any scale of clean up event, you must have a first aid kit and antibacterial wipes (remember to let your volunteers know who the first-aider is);
  • For a large scale event you could contact your local ambulance service or voluntary first aid organisations, such as the Red Cross and St John Ambulance for advice. They may even be able to provide cover and assistance;
  • If you are likely to come across hypodermic needles or drug-related litter, have a contact number for your local authority who will organise a rapid response service for their removal. Do not touch these yourselves;
  • A skip or other means or efficient removal of collected rubbish after your event is useful;
  • If supervisors need to stay in touch, mobile phones or walkie-talkies will be required.

Step 6. Protective gear and equipment and preparations

Make a list of useful equipment and work out who will provide what. Check if any volunteers can provide their own equipment.

As organiser, you will have visited the site and done a risk assessment before the event. It maybe helpful to make a sketch map of the area to be tackled. Identify key locations on the map and use this on the day to show different groups where they should be working, the set up for the day and the facilities available.

Step 7. Informing, instructing and organising

All volunteers will need to be informed and instructed prior to the event. Depending on the nature, size and type of your event, this may include:

  • Health and safety issues;
  • How to use any equipment provided;
  • The agreed routes and event procedures;
  • Where and what time to meet;
  • Advise volunteers in advance to dress for the occasion;
  • Location of toilet facilities and refreshments;
  • First aid arrangements;
  • The location of the nearest telephone or access to a mobile phone.

Step 8. Publicity

Use a press release or contact your local paper to obtain media coverage for your event. Take before, during and after photographs of your event to send to your local press if they do not turn up. Further advice on how to write a press release, visit the factsheet ‘Communicate ideas and information’.

Step 9. Sponsorship and funding

Depending on the size of your community clean up, you may find that you need to fundraise and secure funds in order to carry out the event. You could approach local companies to help provide the necessary equipment for your event. You could also visit the funding opportunities section of this factsheet for details of grants and awards that are available to groups for this type of activity.

Step 10. On the day

On the day of your event there will be a lot to plan and organise. To make this easier appoint an event co-ordinator who will:

  • Brief on emergency procedures;
  • Organise volunteers into teams;
  • Distribute and collect equipment;
  • Specify where rubbish should be left; and
  • Collect survey forms (if used).

As a group don’t forget to enjoy yourselves and to take lots of pictures to record the successes of the day.

02. Additional Information

When carrying out a neighbourhood clean-up project, there are important aspects like health and safety to consider. Avoiding danger is the most important thing:

Hazardous waste

Make sure everyone is aware of potentially dangerous items which they should not pick up. If nasty or dangerous pieces of litter are spotted at any stage during your litter pick, do not attempt to move them yourself. Make a note of their location and inform your local authority.

Natural dangers

Avoid holding your litter pick near potentially dangerous places. Line pins and tape can be used to section off any dangerous areas. For a large operation, a loud hailer can be useful to warn participants to stay within the designated area.

Working with children

Consider the ages of the children involved in your clean up and make sure that a sufficient number of adults are present to supervise. In the case of young children we advise no more than four children to one adult. Before you clean up, make sure children understand which items are potentially dangerous and should not be picked up. Do not let children attempt to pick up heavy or bulky items.

Working near water

If you have to work near water liaise with the appropriate bodies, for example, the Environment Agency, local water companies and lifeguards to check whether there are any possible hazards.

Working near roads and lay-bys

Try not to work near roads and in lay-bys. If however it is unavoidable, restrict groups to work on footpaths and verges in areas with a 40mph speed limit and below. Ask volunteers to wear fluorescent armbands, and exhibit warning signs at either end of the stretch of road while work is in progress.

Be considerate

If you are working in the country, parks, woodland or open spaces avoid disturbing animals or damaging plants. Keep gates closed and don’t clean up natural ‘rubbish’ such as logs, stones and weeds. Before your clean up, get some advice from a wildlife expert such as a conservation officer at your local Wildlife Trust.

Other issues to consider:


It is good practice to recycle the litter you’ve collected, if at all possible. Contact your local authority’s recycling officer for advice on whether certain materials should be collected separately, where they should be taken on how they should be disposed.


Obtaining Public Liability Insurance is very important and not very expensive. This will provide cover for any legal liability arising from accidental damage or injury that occurs during the event, including damage or injury to a member of the public or their property.

If you represent an organisation such as a local authority or school it is possible that you already have insurance in place, but it is important to check that litter picks/activity is covered under such insurance.

03. Funding Opportunities

You may need funding to support your community clean up. The ‘Fundraising’ factsheet outlines key fundraising practices and potential sources of funding to help you secure funding. Don’t forget to visit the Directory for up to date information on current funding opportunities.

You local authority might also be able to help you and offer you some funding to support your activities, as will the funding officer at your local development agency. Full contact details can be found in the Directory.

04. Useful Contacts

Your local authority’s environment department will be able to offer advice and even may be able to provide refuse sacks, litter pickers, gloves, skips and other equipment for your event.

Keep Britain Tidy is an environmental charity which tackles issues to improve the state of the England’s streets. They provide an excellent range of specialist information, advice, technical knowhow and materials on all aspects of litter and waste.

Your local wildlife trust can also help:

Northumberland Wildlife Trust

T: 0191 284 6884   E:

Durham Wildlife Trust

T: 0191 584 3112   E:

Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

T: 01287 636 382   E:

05. Checklist

Here are some key activities to follow:

1 Pinpoint the location of your clean up.

2 Carry out a risk assessment on the site.

3 Get help – contact your local authority and other experts to see what support they can offer you.

4 Get the community involved – involve them in the planning stage and make it a real team effort.

5 Make the necessary arrangements and organise the correct equipment in order to prepare for your clean up.

6 Inform, instruct and organise all volunteers.

7 Organise publicity to surround your event.

8 Secure sponsorship and funding.

9 Enjoy the day!

06. About the Contributor

The information in this factsheet has been donated by Keep Britain Tidy, an environmental charity.

This factsheet is part of the Brighter Futures Together toolkit and provides a general overview of the different ways to get involved in your community. It is not a comprehensive guide or legal advice document. Please seek further advice and appropriate consent before commencing any projects.

The material in the factsheet is not copyrighted however we ask that you acknowledge the Brighter Futures Together toolkit when you use them.