Skip to main content

Litter picking - a surprisingly fun group activity

A blog post by John Matthews

And we’re off! Our Spring Clean Scotland campaign was launched on Friday, a perfect chance to help protect wildlife and the environment by cleaning up streets, beaches or parks in your area.

We’re inviting everyone to join a litter pick or organise your own. Not sure how? John from the West Lothian Litter Pickers has written this handy blog to give you some tips and tell us why he loves volunteering.

The West Lothian Litter Pickers, formed in 2019 by Jason Wilcox, started with group litter picks in known litter black spots around the county. This activity resulted in the group becoming more visible and as a result more members joined. The impact on the roads and verges became noticeable, attracting attention and ultimately it has resulted in there being over 3000 members! We are linked by Facebook and we regularly continue to reduce the amount of litter within West Lothian either individually, in pairs or larger groups.

The success of a group litter pick depends in part on the organising and advertising of the pick. This short blog gives some pointers on how to manage a community clean up.

There are two key elements to organising a group litter pick, the first is finding an area that needs some significant attention and the second is rallying enough people to form a group of 10 to 20 maybe even 30 people who can devote just a couple of hours to making a difference. Typically, a big group pick can collect between 100 and 250 sacks of rubbish, fortunately we have an excellent relationship with West Lothian council who, when notified, will organise for the full sacks to be collected and taken for reprocessing after the pick.

Once we identify a suitable area for a group pick, we advertise it on the West Lothian Litter Pickers page on Facebook, giving details of start time, meeting point and parking, and also giving an idea of what people can expect. Generally, a member of the admin team takes responsibility for a particular pick which is a requirement to ensure the event is covered by the WLLP public liability insurance. When all participants have gathered, we have a quick briefing on safety, and the mechanics of litter picking. Equipment is handed out to everybody who hasn't brought their own and folk then get stuck into the activity having been directed to the best places to start picking. Each participant is generally armed with 5, 6 or 7 empty plastic sacks.

The following two hours usually entail crawling into undergrowth, clearing the backs of flower beds and generally following the trail of litter in the surrounding area. Once the allotted time is up the bags are all collected into one or two collection sites and experiences of collecting the grottiest, oldest, and funniest items are compared and then ultimately the council are informed of the location and quantity of bags that are awaiting collection.

I never imagined that collecting other people’s litter could be so rewarding but it is beneficial for all sorts of reasons, firstly it gets you out and about on a day which you may not have done so otherwise, you make a significant difference to the local environment, you meet and socialise with other like-minded people and generally create a feeling of achievement amongst the group. Even heavy rain and strong winds don't put off dedicated litter pickers!

If you are interested in joining the West Lothian Litter Pickers group or want to start your own group in another area, please feel free to contact us by searching on Facebook for the West Lothian Litter Pickers probably the largest litter picking group in the country.

If you have been inspired to organise your own litter pick or just want to do one yourself or with a friend, then #SpringCleanScotland (21 March – 21 April) is the perfect opportunity. See how you can join in and pledge how many bags you hope to collect on our Spring Clean Scotland webpage. It could be ten, it could be one, no matter the number every bag makes a difference!

We support the