Building an alliance with local litter pickers

Published : Wed 14th Sep

In 2018, an independent volunteer group set up The Formby & Freshfield Beach Litter Angels, made up of visitors and local residents of Formby. Frustrated with the amount of litter across the site and what they perceived to be a lack of action taken by the Trust, they wanted to make a change. So, to try and bridge the gap, members of the Rangers team and the then Community Engagement Officer, reached out to try and build a relationship with the group. Here’s what happened.

We started by spending time listening to their frustrations. Then we shared the challenges the staff experienced on-site each day, and the approach the staff were taking to tackle the issue with litter.

The alliance enabled us to work collaboratively while remaining independent from one another. We agreed on ways of supporting each another, such as agreeing official drop off/pick up points for litter across the site and communicating when litter picks are due to take place. The Angels have now got a following of 1,800 people on Facebook, most of whom volunteer on a regular basis. Many of their volunteers previously had negative perceptions of the National Trust and its approach to litter, but have now become National Trust volunteers. So the partnership is really helping to bridge the gap between the site and the wider public. They’ve helped us share key messages and reach a wider audience than we could previously.

While they remain independent, they’ve allowed us to engage with members of the public that may not have engaged previously, becoming real community advocates of the role our staff play to look after the site. They also organise and run regular events, which we promote through our social media channels. These events tend to be after a busy bank holiday weekend or over the summer holidays when most of the issues with litter take place. Since they started in 2018, the Angels have led and completed over 60 litter picking events. In 2021 alone they completed 18 events, had 540 Volunteers attend, and racked up 704 volunteer hours (excluding the hours some of the Angels work independently).

As a thank you for the hard work they complete, the Formby staff team dedicated our scarecrow for the National Trust Rufford Scarecrow Festival to the Angels, with the theme being “heroes and inspiring people”. Their work has been invaluable to us and we’re so glad the partnership has grown stronger, allowing us to share the key messages and receive support from the wider public.