A guide to litter picking and beach cleans

Beach cleans and litter picking are simple yet impactful ways to help stop litter from harming wildlife. 

17th May 2024

It’s estimated that around 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans every year, and it doesn’t just disappear. Every piece of plastic that was ever created still exists in some form, and those that end up in our waters simply break down into smaller, more dangerous pieces.

Beach cleans and litter picking are simple yet impactful ways to help stop litter from hurting our marine life. Whether you're an experienced environmentalist or someone who’s looking to make a positive difference, here’s all you need to know about cleaning up…

Choose your location

The first thing you’ll need to do is choose an area you’d like to clean up, as this may determine some of the equipment you may need. This could be a local beach, park, woodland, or even a roadside area. If you’re stuck on where to go, charities and other organisations host events and can help provide information on areas in need of attention.

Here are some options:

Be prepared with the right equipment

Whether you want to attend a planned event or fancy picking rogue pieces of litter you see while out and about, you’ll need the necessary equipment. Carry gardening gloves with you, or a litter picker for the hard-to-reach spots. Bring a sturdy bag to carry the litter you pick, in case you can’t find a bin and so that you can dispose of litter properly!

In case there aren’t any recycling bins available, it might be worth taking separate bin bags, e.g. for plastics, paper/cardboard, mixed glass, tins, and general waste.

Make sure you’re dressed appropriately, taking the weather and terrain into account – and don't forget to stay hydrated! Hand sanitiser is handy to have, too; helping keep your hands clean when you’re done.

Equipment you'll need for a beach clean

  • Bin bags or durable plastic bags.
  • Thick gardening or work gloves.
  • A litter-picker.
  • Water and snacks. 
  • Hand sanitiser.
  • Hi-vis tabard or jacket.

Safety first

Watch out for dangerous materials like broken glass, needles, or anything with human or animal waste. If you encounter these items, notify your local council rather than attempting to pick them up. 

It’s essential that you wear gloves when picking up litter, too – to protect yourself.

Also, should you be litter picking near a road or on the roadside, you’ll need to wear a hi-vis tabard or jacket to enable road users to see you.

Remember: If you think it could be dangerous or harmful, don't pick it up.

Start your clean up

Upon arrival at your chosen location, it’s time to get picking! Scan the area for litter including plastic bottles, cigarette butts, and food wrappers. Always be mindful of your surroundings and avoid disturbing natural habitats if you can.

If you’re attending an organised event, always follow instructions.

Sort and dispose

As soon as you’re done, it’s time to separate the recyclable items from general waste. Then, make sure you dispose of each piece responsibly in designated bins. Depending on the location you cleaned, you may even have found waste which has specific disposal requirements, e.g. construction waste, so be sure to dispose of these items correctly.

Spread awareness

When you get home after a day of doing good, why not raise awareness about the importance of working together to prevent litter and its deadly impact on our wildlife? Don’t be shy, share photos and stories from your clean-up efforts with friends and family, as well as on social media, and inspire others to join in!

And that’s it! Together, we can all make a difference, one piece of litter at a time.

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