Working in partnership to give communities a helping hand to clean up Scotland
A blog post by Lindsay Richmond-Kearns
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In 2020, more than ever we relied on our inspiring community groups and enthusiastic individuals to help us with our goal for a clean, green and sustainable Scotland.
We wanted to support grassroot action and let communities and volunteers take the lead, so with the support from our funders Coca Cola and Zero Waste Scotland we set up 31 Community Clean Up Hubs across Scotland. These are groups with expertise in community clean ups and now have group equipment from our long-standing partners at Helping Hand Environmental.
We’ve been working with Helping Hand Environmental for a number of years now to provide sustainable litter picking equipment to help people clean up their local area. We invited Lindsay Richmond-Kearns, their Communities and Partnerships Manager, to talk about the impact of the pandemic on Scotland’s littering problem and to find out about what The Helping Hand Company plans are for 2021.
What a year! I think it’s fair to say nobody could have ever predicted what happened to our world in 2020. The upsetting loss of life, the challenges of working from home, juggling home schooling, restriction around seeing our friends and family and the constant uncertainty, even now.
In 2020, we did see an increase in litter and dog fouling across the whole UK, especially when restrictions were lifted. And throughout the year a new wave of waste was established - PPE litter (face masks, disposable gloves, wipes, hand sanitiser bottles). I have also never seen or experienced community spirit like it – community groups, volunteers and families - all helping or connecting with each other at social distance to tackle litter in their local area. Perhaps it is because during lockdown we began to use our streets, parks, opens spaces, beaches, forests and playgrounds more, we noticed the presence of more litter in the areas we loved and stepped in to help clean it up or discouraged others from dropping litter in the first place.
As a British manufacturer - The Helping Hand Company has remained open during the pandemic, providing safer litter collection equipment to support frontline service staff and volunteers to help tackle lockdown litter with sustainable litter picking equipment and litter picking guidance. We saw a dramatic increase in the number of solo/family volunteers and social responsibility colleagues wanting to purchase their own litter picking kits, delivered directly to their door, to support daily exercise/socially distanced clean ups. Some local authorities postponed group events and instead developed Adopt a Street initiatives for their residents to loan or donate litter picking equipment and we were delighted to provide equipment to enable our friends at Keep Scotland Beautiful to develop 31 community hubs across Scotland which encourage volunteers of all ages to get involved. Litter picking became accessible, flexible and super fun for all the family.
And whilst I work for the best manufacturer of sustainable litter picking equipment in the World (I know I am biased) – what you might not know is I have 15 years of volunteer litter picking experience under my belt (organising, running litter picks, as well as undertaking my own solo litter picks).
As Community & Partnerships Manager at Helping Hand, I work with key brands, litter heroes and environmental charities on a host of environmental campaigns to eliminate litter and support a circular economy. But I have also worked with/in front line local authority street cleansing, enforcement and recycling departments, as an environmental education consultant and ran my own anti-litter charity
I am volunteer at heart – I have faced the same challenges, pet hates and concerns about litter as you. I am concerned for our neighbourhoods, our planet and our future generations. That’s why I litter pick and that’s why I want to help implement change and am delighted to be the new Editor in Chief of a UK Litterpicking Facebook group.
Over the coming year, Helping Hand Environmental are looking forward to continuing to support our Scottish local authority partners, community litter picking groups, solo volunteers and families, schools and businesses who are all working hard to eliminate and tackle litter in their neighbourhoods and I thank them whole-heartily for everything they do to keep Scotland beautiful. For 2021, we look forward highlighting the work of volunteer litter heroes across Scotland when we relaunch the Clean Up Scotland Hero of the Month award later in the year.
Right now, volunteers of all ages are still wishing to litter pick and sometimes struggle to get access to reusable litter picking equipment as freely as before. To make litter collection easier, Helping Hand has developed a range of foldable litter pickers and litter picking carts made from 35% recycled materials; offering discounts across our sustainable litter equipment range to supporters of Keep Scotland Beautiful. However, we would always encourage you to follow the latest government guidance to stay safe.
I know times are tough right now as we find ourselves restricted from seeing our loved ones, friends and colleagues to stop the spread of COVID-19 – it is important to remember that whilst we cannot meet up, there is a virtual community available to lend a helping hand to help motivate, encourage and share best practices and most importantly to just to say a BIG thank you. Your actions are making a difference. I would recommend connecting with local Facebook groups and UK Litterpicking groups on Facebook, and accessing your local Beautiful Scotland or It’s Your Neighbourhoods groups.
In 2021 we’re warning of a looming litter emergency. We want to prevent litter damaging our parks, beaches and neighbourhoods ahead of the summer. We’re all looking forward to getting outdoors and socialising again, but that shouldn’t be at a cost to our environment. That’s why this June we will hold a delayed Spring Clean – our 2021 Summer Clean – in whatever way we can. Whether it’s encouraging people to celebrate the beautiful places they live in, completing litter surveys if they don’t have equipment, or taking part in a solo or household litter pick.
Everyone needs to take responsibility and everyone needs to work together. Make 2021 the year you take action to clean up your community. Let’s Clean Up Scotland not only for ourselves but to show any visitors a country we can be proud of.