Keeping Britain Tidy – volunteering and spring cleaning

National environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy biggest-ever litter campaign – the Great British Spring Clean – will culminate with a weekend of action next month.  

(Keep Britain Tidy)
(Keep Britain Tidy)

Between March 3rd and 5th, we are aiming to mobilise half a million people to get out and make their neighbourhood one of which they can be really proud.

Yes, we’d love you to get involved. But we would really like you to involve others too. As countryside managers or workers, you may be ideally placed to help us get more people involved, and help yourself at the same time.

As a charity, the public mostly recognise Keep Britain Tidy for our anti-litter campaigns but we do so much more. We work with schools, in green spaces, on beaches, in cities and communities, with businesses, local authorities and individuals. We run the country’s flagship school environmental programme, Eco-Schools, along with the Green Flag Award for parks and green spaces, the Blue Flag Award and Seaside Awards for beaches and the volunteer litter-picking programme the Big Tidy Up. You can find out more about everything we do via or find us on social media.

(Keep Britain Tidy)
(Keep Britain Tidy)

Our army of 336,000 formal and informal volunteers help us on a daily basis to work towards our aims of eliminating litter, improving local places and ending waste. Without them we would not be able to make the difference we make every day. For example, without our teams of skilled volunteer assessors, we wouldn’t be able to award schools with their Eco-Schools Green Flags and our volunteer judges enable us to award parks and green spaces with a Green Flag Award. Our “Care” programmes are improving beaches and waterways across the country, with volunteers putting in 45,000 hours last year.  

Every week, hundreds of people selflessly head out of their front doors to litter pick across the country, many as part of our Big Tidy Up; individuals, school children, community groups, businesses and so many more. One man and his dog – Wayne and Koda – were our litter heroes of 2016. The intrepid duo are on a mission to walk the entire coastline of Britain, litter picking as they go and raising awareness with every step.

But we understand that, with busy lives and responsibilities, not everyone can commit to regular volunteering. Others will lack the confidence to set up a group, organise an event or they may feel overwhelmed by perceived health and safety red tape.

However, we also know that many are still willing to do their bit and do something to help in their local area.

This desire to make a difference is why so many signed up to last year’s Clean for the Queen campaign, which saw 250,000 people taking part. Hundreds of school children, thousands of community groups and businesses, supported by 400 local authorities, collected more than 300,000 bags of rubbish between them.

(Keep Britain Tidy)
(Keep Britain Tidy)

Mass participation events, such as this year’s follow-up, the Great British Spring Clean, help us to reach new and different audiences. Many will simply take part in the event, while others will go on to get more involved with our work, or with their local community.

Some people or businesses will have the confidence to organise their own spring clean, with a bit of guidance from us, but others will not. And this is where your organisation could come in. You will have people – residents, site users, supporters and staff – who love the place they call home, who are bothered by litter and want to do something about it. Maybe there are schools, businesses or community groups your organisation is looking to work more closely with in the future? Maybe you are looking to set up a new regular volunteering group, but need a nudge to get it going?

For more than 60 years, Keep Britain Tidy has been inspiring people to take action in their own communities. As a charity that is heavily reliant on volunteers, we were keen to understand the types of people who volunteer, why they do it and what they hope to gain from volunteering so we conducted some in-depth research to help us. Our “Breaking Barriers” report can be downloaded from our website and is a useful tool for increasing volunteering at your sites.

As you’d expect, different people had different motivations for getting involved and identified various barriers, but there were some common threads – one of which is the importance of logistics. People want to know the whats, whys, hows, whos and whens before they will consider committing their time. By demonstrating strong leadership and organisation, volunteers can feel supported and reassured.

(Keep Britain Tidy)
(Keep Britain Tidy)

Helping people see the need for their support, and the importance of their role in tackling an issue, is a great motivator. As litter is such a visible problem, it can be an easy way to get people started and grow their confidence. And tapping into people’s own interests is a key driver, whether that is a love of their local countryside, or combining a little litter picking with their enjoyment in walking the dog.

By being part of a national volunteering event, helping your local patch to help the whole country, there is an even greater incentive for people to get involved. And any additional incentives you can provide for your volunteers will always be appreciated – whether that’s a cup of tea afterwards, a simple thank you, or some recognition at your site. Don’t under estimate the social benefits of volunteering too – for many this is a key driver to get involved. Facilitate this aspect where you can, perhaps by enabling warm-up conversations before you begin.

To get involved, the first step is to simply register your interest at or email You can download resources and further information from the website and we’ll keep you updated in the run-up to March 3rd and after, so that you and your volunteers can see how they were part of something that made a big difference.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with the Keep Britain Tidy on 13 February 2017