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Guidance and advice

There are many organisations that support litter picking and have guidance, advice, equipment and sometimes insurance. The content below is general advice and lots more from these different organisations can be found in the Resources section.

How to do a litter pick?

To carry out a litter pick you don’t need to be part of a group, or working with or for the council. You may even be on holiday and want to do one. You will need to decide what area you will pick up litter in and get permission if it is not a public area.

It is a good idea to contact your local authority for support and many also have equipment which you can borrow and uplift any waste you have bagged. You may also want to join a group already doing litter picks, adding a social element to your activity. The Local groups and support page will have more on how to find out what’s happening in your area and what support is available.

Please do not touch or remove flytipping (such as waste dumped in the wrong place, usually pre-meditated and involving larger items or volumes). This should not be touched so it can be investigated and any evidence used for flytipping offences - please report it to the local authority the waste is in.

Make sure you have considered health and safety before you start litter picking. You should complete a risk assessment and you may also need insurance – more information below. For any work with children under 16 or vulnerable adults the activity may have to be adapted and some useful resources are available.

Where to do a litter pick?

Local authorities can support litter picking efforts in public places, such as pavements, local parks, cemeteries and beaches (see below for roads).

For private land, including agricultural, derelict or commercial sites (including some car parks), you will need to gain permission to litter pick. The local authority will not be able to pick up waste that has been collected on private land. Litter removal from this land is not under local authority responsibility and cannot be disposed of, and paid for, through local authorities.

,If you are unsure, you should contact your local authority.

To also help you decide where to pick litter, think about the risks and hazards, where you will start from and how you will get there, where you will leave your waste, toilets and handwashing facilities and what to do if the weather turns bad.

If you are organising it for a group, also think about public transport or car parking and meeting points.

For litter picking in the marine environment please consider the tides too. You can see beach forecast and tide times on the MET office by finding your location.

Do not litter pick on roads or roadsides. Although, this is public land there is a significant risk in litter picking activities here, to yourselves and others in the area. This should be left to the local authority or transport operator. If there are issues on roadsides you want to tackle, please instead contact the duty body – information is available on the Report section of the hub.

What do you need?

The following equipment is advised:

  • Litter pickers
  • Protective gloves
  • Bin bags
  • A safe container for sharp objects (not needles, these should never be picked up)
  • First aid kit
  • Anti-bacterial wipes or hand-washing gel
  • Handihoops
  • Eye googles (particularly for overgrown/ wooded areas)
  • Hi-vis vest

Dependant on the types of items you are likely to pick up you may want extra equipment such as a wheelbarrow. If you are out for a long time refreshments may also be needed, particularly for a group.

Local authorities can often provide a lot of this, so it’s worthwhile checking what each can offer on the Local groups and support page. There are also numerous community clean up hubs across Scotland. These may have extra support, advice and equipment.

Those supported by Keep Scotland Beautiful can be found on this map.

Those supported by Trash Free Trails can be found on a map on this page.

Surfers Against Sewage can also provide you with free equipment for up to 30 individuals for cleans.

You can also purchase your own equipment, Helping Hand Environmental have specific equipment for this purpose. You are able to get discounted equipment through Keep Scotland Beautiful’s partnership.

Health and safety

Litter picking comes with certain risks. Everyone taking part should know these and how to complete a litter pick safely. If you are organising an event you should share health and safety information with everyone.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment should be completed before any litter picking starts. This should cover risks associated with the activity of dealing with litter, such as contact with hazardous materials and/or needles, as well as the geographic and environmental risks, such as heatstroke, slips and trips and road accidents. For all risks, mitigations or control measures should be put in place and enforced. For example, litter should never be touched and litter picks used only for picking up litter, gloves worn at all times, needles never moved, appropriate clothing according to the weather and litter on roads or at roadsides should be left. There are many links to organisations with examples in the Resources section which you can use and adapt, or you may want to create one yourself.

Children under the age of 16 and vulnerable adults should be accompanied by a responsible adult and clear instruction given including what to do in case of emergency.

Once a risk assessment has been completed all people completing a litter pick should be aware of these and how to mitigate these risks. If you are in a group a safety briefing outlining these should happen before litter picking begins.

A few reminders:

DO NOT touch or remove needles or glass - notify the landowner

DO NOT touch or remove dead animals and animal waste

DO NOT touch or remove any substances you cannot identify and/or could be dangerous- notify the landowner

DO NOT touch or remove flytipping (such as waste dumped in the wrong place, usually pre-meditated and involving larger items or volumes)

DO NOT litter pick on roads or roadsides

DO NOT pick up anything that is too heavy to lift safely

DO make sure the area you are litter picking in is safe

DO wear gloves at all times and use litter pickers to pick up litter

DO wash hands thoroughly after litter picking

DO check tide time if you are in a coastal area - you can check tide times online: BBC websiteMET websiteEasyTide website.

If you are ever not sure, do not carry out the litter pick.

Insurance

You may want to obtain Public Liability Insurance for litter picking activities, which will provide protection if a claim is made against you due to accidents such as if someone is injured or there is damage to someone’s property.

You may already have cover, particularly if you are a business, school or national body. If not you can explore this further:

  • Contact your local council whose insurance may cover this type of event, have requirements for you to be covered or could offer advice – links can be found on the Local groups and support page.
  • Check if any other local groups have insurance that you could join.
  • Check if any coordinating organisations have insurance – this will likely only cover specific organised events so please do check the details:
    • Members of TCV’s Community Network benefit from insurance.
    • The Marine Conservation Society has public liability insurance for specific organised events where requirements are met which is outlined in their Beachwatch Organiser Guide. For example, organisers must make time for appropriate planning and complete a risk assessment prior to their event. They also need to provide health and safety briefings before the cleans and get consent from parents/guardians for under 16s taking part in the clean.
    • Surfers Against Sewage can provide you with all the guidance and advice needed to conduct your own clean too. Simply choose the date and location that suits you best, and they can provide public liability insurance and free equipment for up to 30 individuals
  • Purchase your own Public Liability Insurance for a single event or get an annual policy

Please do not assume you are covered, and this is guidance and signposting only.

If your group does not have insurance, make sure that all members of the group and any volunteers are made aware of this. If they are concerned, they should not get involved in the activity.

Waste uplift

Please plan what you will do with the litter you collect before you start. Most local authorities will pick up bags of waste you have collected as long as it is litter that has been collected from public land; please get in touch with them at the first instance. Waste should not be left by public bins unless agreed with the local authority as this is classed as flytipping.

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