Recite Me

Winnie's 6 simple steps to a clean, green neighbourhood

Winnie's 6 simple steps to a clean, green neighbourhood

Sick of seeing bags blown into bushes and stepping over cans? Why not take action like Winnie and start your own litter picking revolution in your neighbourhood? She tells us how easy it is to do.

Hi Winnie, tell us a little bit about yourself and your efforts to clean up the area where you live.

I’m a working mum living in Thornaby, Stockton, and I set up Thornaby Community Litter Project in 2019. We are a family-friendly volunteer group who meet up every Sunday to tackle litter hotspots around the town. We regularly attract 80 people to our weekly session and now have an unbelievable 4,000 supporters from far and wide. We were even contacted by an American lady the other day who loved what we were doing and wanted to know how to do something similar on the other side of the Atlantic!

How did it all begin?

We live between a McDonald’s and three schools and I was so frustrated with how much litter there was. It stressed me out to know that all of this plastic won’t just disappear. It will end up blown into the hedgerows, rivers and the sea where it kills wildlife. We’d been watching a David Attenborough documentary about the state of the planet and the next day when I was walking my son Joe to school, I decided to stop thinking about it and just get on and do something about it. I contacted a local litter picking group that had a handful of members and the lady there said she was moving and asked if I’d like to take over. It all just grew from there.

What do you actually do?

We have volunteers of all ages in every corner of the town. We look out for places that need a bit of TLC and go to a different spot each week. One of our members
is a postman so he’s good at keeping an eye out. People will also do solo picks if they can’t join the Sunday session.

What do people get out of it?

So much! People say dirty streets make them depressed so it makes them feel better to take control. It’s so easy to say it’s the council’s job, but we say it’s everyone’s
responsibility. We also have such a laugh – it’s actually good fun. The whole family can get involved and it’s a way to get the kids away from their screens to do something positive together. It’s a lovely way to meet other likeminded people.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found?

My favourite was probably a creepy pair of mannequin legs which we had a lot of fun with as you can see in the photos!

Keen to clean up your street?

Follow Winnie’s simple steps to get going:

Start small

Start on your own or ask a few neighbours and just focus on your street. Or maybe you could get a few parents together after the school run or regular dog walking friends. You’ll be amazed by how many people will want to get involved. Lots of people want to do something but they just need one person to get it going. Everyone
thinks someone else will do it! Be that person. Don’t overthink it – just do it.

Think safety first!

Get everyone to bring their own gloves and rubbish bags. Use thick gardening gloves to protect hands. Look out for anything sharp and don’t touch needles – these need to be reported to the authorities. If kids are getting involved keep them away from busy roads.

Find a way to communicate

We use Facebook but just use whatever is easiest for you. We have a main page which is public and we use it to recruit new people and to share all of the great things we do. We then also have a closed group where we can have private conversations about what we are planning.

Contact the council for help!

Go through your environmental services team and involve your local councillor if you like. They might be able to provide you with equipment and you can liaise with them about the collection of your picks.

Think bigger if you want to!

Lots of other litter picking groups, schools and environmental projects might want to join forces to do bigger events and share the experience. We recently did the Big Tees Tidy Up with other groups and the Fire Brigade. It was so much fun and made a huge impact.

Get money!

Set up a bank account for your community group so you can channel any funds you receive into it. Keep all of your receipts safe as you need to keep a record of your spending.

Karbon can offer support if you’re interested in setting up your own group. Get in touch via email at to find out how we can help.

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4 August 2021

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