Step by step: Creating a community litter initiative

Photo of two people sorting litter.
Bill Waters

Article from CPRE Fieldwork newsletter, Summer 2021

Step by step: Creating a community litter initiative

CPRE Hampshire has always looked to work with communities, businesses and local government to find positive and lasting ways to help the countryside thrive. 2021 has seen them forge new partnerships to tackle the issue of litter, after CPRE’s national polling revealed that over a third of adults in England (38%) are seeing more local litter since the start of the pandemic.

Inspired by local litter hero Tom Bristowe’s pioneering work in the Winchester area, CPRE Hampshire trustee John Lauwerys thought that our group could make a valuable contribution to the cause. Here, we take a look at how John and his fellow volunteers have made a flying start in their efforts to create a litter free Hampshire.

Taking inspiration from others

As so often in the world of conservation campaigning, there is no need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when there are so many great projects waiting to be replicated. Indeed, much inspiration came from over the county border, in the form of the Litter Free Dorset group which has worked closely with CPRE Dorset for a number of years – cleaning up the county’s countryside and coasts while helping to promote CPRE’s campaign for a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.

However, the idea for CPRE Hampshire’s litter picking project was prompted by the success of an existing grassroots initiative within the county. The Litter Partnership in Winchester brings together local people, councils, schools, businesses and military personnel to tackle the litter that blights local communities and green spaces. Founded by Tom Bristowe, a LitterHero Ambassador of Keep Britain Tidy, they are supported by Winchester City Council and Walking With The Wounded, as well as CPRE.

Finding the perfect partner

As part of the Litter Partnership’s work, Tom had the great idea of collaborating with a local litter contractor and approached Winchester’s street scene contractor, idverde, for help. With idverde’s professional support, the Litter Partnership has been able to arrange weekly one-hour litter-picks for volunteers from Upham and Owslebury, helping to keep the surrounding rural lanes and roadsides free of rubbish.

CPRE Hampshire were therefore hugely grateful that the Litter Partnership made an introduction to idverde, which meant it would be possible to organise similar events for local CPRE members. idverde’s contribution includes a dedicated driver, van and the generous loan of the equipment necessary for the clean-up operation. As the majority of the litter picks take place on the roadside, the van is also crucial for alerting traffic to the volunteers’ presence while safely screening them from approaching vehicles.

Holding the first event

With the support of local volunteers and idverde, CPRE Hampshire held their first community litter picks in April 2021, cleaning up Brambridge near Eastleigh and the Badger Farm neighbourhood on the southern edge of Winchester. ‘We are so pleased to be working in partnership with idverde and were extremely grateful to the handful of volunteers who supported us over the first weekend,’ said CPRE Hampshire’s Volunteer Coordinator Natalie Hargreaves. ‘We gathered around eight bags full of items ranging from L plates and glass and plastic bottles to drinks cans and food wrappers.’

Promoting wider campaign aims

Excellent local press coverage of the first weekend’s events helped CPRE Hampshire raise interest for their regular roadside litter picks, while highlighting their calls for political candidates to develop better policies on litter and waste ahead of May’s local elections.

Furthermore, the publicity helped link the new project to CPRE’s longstanding anti-litter work – notably the Stop the Drop campaign launched in 2008 by Hampshire resident and then CPRE President Bill Bryson. A number of outlets carried John Lauwerys’ powerful quotes: ‘CPRE has a long tradition of seeking to tackle the scourge of littering which has become an increasing problem over recent decades. Many parts of the countryside are disfigured by litter and fly tipping and this has grown worse since the covid pandemic.’

Harnessing local enthusiasm

As part of Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘Great British Spring Clean’, and a break from their weekly roadside picks, CPRE Hampshire organised a June event at the local beauty spot of Farley Mount, west of Winchester. The day was a great opportunity to get more people from the local community involved, and as well as the usual idverde support they were joined by volunteer litter pickers (aged three and above!) from the nearby parish of Hursley.

The fresh air and beautiful surroundings were greatly appreciated by all, bearing out research from last year’s Great British Spring Clean showing that 79% of people felt volunteering improved their mood. ‘It was a good turnout on a lovely day and the group achieved a great deal,’ said Natalie. ‘Normally, our roadside litter picks have to be carefully managed because of traffic, so this was an opportunity for us to open it up to families and younger volunteers we know are keen to be involved.’

The project’s success so far means that CPRE Hampshire already has over 20 new litter picking volunteers on their books – all of whom are making a real difference to the local environment. For everyone involved with this excellent work, the long term goal is that litter will be eradicated as more people learn to care for their countryside. This will require a process of environmental education alongside encouragement for people to connect with their local green spaces – both of which are being provided by this initiative.

‘CPRE Hampshire aims to greatly raise awareness of the problem caused by the thoughtless dropping of litter across our beautiful county,’ says John. ‘If we could persuade people visiting our open spaces or driving through our countryside to put waste into bins or take it home for disposal, we would all benefit and at the same reduce the negative impact litter has on the natural environment.’

CPRE Hampshire is looking for more volunteers to help with the ongoing weekly litter picks,. If you would like to get involved, litter picks currently take place for 1 hour from 10.30am on a Saturday morning, and – depending on demand – there are plans to expand the programme. Find out more.

Children climbing in the New Forest