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Walsall Council volunteering initiative hopes to sweep up a national award

Published on 27 July 2021 Print

Walsall Council’s innovative Community Litter Watch initiative has been shortlisted for the Local Government Chronicle’s prestigious awards. Community Litter Watch has seen a 500% increase in volunteers, an innovative partnership with Walsall FC and a social return on investment of almost £60,000 within the first year. At the same time it has increased residents’ pride in their localities, health and wellbeing outcomes and fostered community cohesion and resilience in this diverse borough.

Keeping Walsall clean and litter free costs taxpayers approximately £1.5 million per year. Following requests from residents expressing an interest in litter picking, the Council’s Clean and Green Service realised a more coordinated approach was needed. Two volunteer coordinators were appointed in August 2019, who went on to establish Walsall Community Litter Watch (WCLW).

The initiative was kick-started with a £49,000 grant from the Government’s High Streets Community Clean Up scheme, but is now funded by the Council. WCLW works in partnership with residents, community groups and volunteers empowering them to take responsibility for improvements to their locality.

In 2020 WCLW developed and delivered ‘Litter Picker Leader Training’ to upskill local volunteers; established 10 litter-picking stations and hosted litter picking campaigns such as the Great British Spring Clean.

WCLW developed and set up a constituted group, ‘Walsall Wombles’, to support the sustainability of litter-picking groups through access to new avenues of funding and networks.

In 2020 WCLW created a Litter Charter, which businesses have been invited to pledge to, aiming to keep our high streets and shopping centres welcoming, well maintained and clean.

WCLW also works with schools to deliver the A Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT) initiative to encourage young people to take care of our environment for future generations. ACT teaches young people what litter is, what happens to it in the environment, how to recycle and provides the opportunity to teach others.

Councillor Oliver Butler, Portfolio Holder for Clean and Green said:

“I’m really pleased that we chose to invest in the two volunteer coordinator positions in 2019 — Walsall Community Litter Watch is a resounding success in so many ways. While it’s fantastic that we now have 32 active litter-picking groups doing wonderful work, it’s also a great way to get out in the fresh air and meet new people.

“The interest shown by independent local businesses in signing up to the Litter Charter is also very encouraging.

“Clearly, it would be best if people didn’t drop litter in the first place, but we’ll continue to work with schools, businesses and our communities to get the word out and encourage more people to become involved.”

~ENDS~

Litter Charter https://go.walsall.gov.uk/roads_streetlighting_and_parking/street_care_and_cleaning/litter_and_littering/walsall_community_litter_watch/our_high_streets

Impact of WCLW in 2020-21:

  • A 750% increase in the number of new litter picker volunteers, from 70 to 596
  • 111 community litter picking events since its inception, removing 3,525 bags of litter
  • 1,263 total attendances lasting 4,939 hours
  • Active litter picking groups doubled from 16 to 32
  • 10 litter picking stations have been created across the borough
  • Active Facebook group with 890 active members and sustained engagement
  • 169 businesses/shops have expressed an interest in signing up to the Litter Charter

A ‘virtual pick’ called ‘Shine a Light’ encouraged volunteers to litter pick in their local area. This resulted in 21 litter picks with 32 volunteers, 105 bags of litter collected, two new volunteers recruited and 23 new Facebook group requests.

WCLW won the Keep Britain Tidy Community Engagement Award 2021, a volunteer was a runner-up in the Keep Britain Tidy #LitterHeroes Award 2020, and WCLW was invited to be keynote speakers at national street cleansing seminars.

In 2020 the estimated annual social return on investment (SROI) was at least £58,846.82. The predicted SROI for 2021 is £115,362.70.

The LGC Awards take place in London on 4 November 2021 https://awards.lgcplus.com/