"The vision has always been to not run a litter picking empire"

Litter picking, volunteers

Why should litter picking groups be insured? And why should fast food chains be responsible for the amount of plastic litter left behind customers? Read our interview with a founder of Clean New Forest, Peter Armstrong to find out.

Peter, could you please introduce your organisation to our audience? What is the story behind the birth of Clean New Forest?

I started Litter Picking nearly nine years ago around my local area most weeks with my wife. In 2013/14 I was written up in a publication by Keep Britain Tidy. Also invited up to a reception at Houses of Parliament by Keep Britain Tidy and again a few years after this. In 2015 I started organising group litter picks as part of the national campaign Clean for the Queen. Subsequent years I have been involved in the National Great British Spring Clean ( A keep Britain Tidy Initiative) organising groups.

I have always had a heart for the New Forest area and started linking with other litter pickers across the New Forest and found I was also being asked for advice and help. This resulted in the website Clean New Forest with the help of a local volunteer who kindly put it together for me. I also liaised with Clean Cornwall who helped give useful information. The Google map has been very much part of this with over 5,300 views. I was one of the first 100 Litter Ambassadors for KBT appointed across the UK and took the role for the New Forest due to my connections. The vision has always been to not run a litter picking “empire”. Look at me or a group, but be a facilitator. The New Forest is the size of New York! Many people have also been litter picking for a number of years before Blue Planet and other programmes/initiatives.

Another development has been having a stand at the Annual Charity Fair in the New Forest. Due to my role with KBT as a National charity I have been able to take part and in 2019 & 2020 recruited nearly 200 people across the New Forest. It has spawned a few groups and added to others. I have emailed giving people their closest group (although some just litter pick alone). I don’t try to re-invent the wheel where there is an existing group. I have also been at a community fund day recruiting litter pickers at a stand with Local Friends of the earth. To me it’s about working together with as many as possible to make a difference. “Together it can be done”.

Part of the vision has been to have Litter Heroes in every Town and Village in the New Forest - Loving where they Live. Some of this has happened without any input, although most groups have at some point contacted me for advice and help. During lockdown this has increased as many have used their exercise time to pick up litter. The National park contacted me last year to ask if I could find out what other organisations/authorities were doing. Quick email to other KBT Ambassadors and had the information within a day. As a result, the Local National park have given away well over 500 litter pickers to local people!

Clean New Forest has been operating since 2016. How did the movement evolve since its beginning? Yes it was around this time information was being put together. Website may have launched in 2017. The year I became a Litter Ambassador for KBT.

You are also the New Forest Ambassador nominated by Keep Britain Tidy and hold several accolades for your involvement in the community. Which one are you most proud of?

I have been called a Litter hero by the Local authority, but not had any awards.

One of your activities was initiating the supply of litter packs to the New Forest schools and speaking school assemblies. Why is education of the youth on the issue important for you?

Education about litter is a key issue to grow a generation that has a real understanding of the harm litter causes and cost to everyone and harm to wildlife /environment. We seem to have lost a couple of generations and the I do what I like attitude has permeated too much of our society at many levels. Keep Britain Tidy run a successful program now in over 20,000 schools in the UK called Eco-Schools UK. A number of schools I contacted were part of this so I sought to get Litter packs into a number of them at no cost and found funds to supply these at a cost of over £200 each. Then where a school was able, I went in and soke at a number of assemblies. It is so important that the next generation has a real understanding of how to Love Where they Live.

Local businesses can get in touch with you and become sponsors of litter packs for schools. It's a model we use in Eco Green Communities as well. Why should businesses care about their communities? Every business I believe needs to show to their local community they care and it’s great advertising. E.g. I was contacted by an events company about a London Business coming to the New Forest for a Mini Conference. As part of this they wanted the whole 100 to go litter picking. Could I organise! I did in collaboration with Forestry England. Three large New Forest Open space areas were litter picked and the firm were able to put this in their newsletter. Another local business was Exxon- I helped lead a number of their employees on a Litter pick cleaning up one Village. Again this went in their local newsletter. Businesses can also sponsor/ pay for litter kits for their local schools. I can facilitate this for anyone who wants to do this.

A trend in corporate social responsibility had many employers engage in charity or other community activity, such as litter picking. What is your opinion on this type of activism, and can Clean New Forest help organise such events?

Yes see above. Very happy to organise litter picks for employees of any business.

Besides advising on litter matters, you can also recommend ways of getting an insurance for litter picking group. Why do volunteers need one and what does it consist of?

It is important group organisers have insurance for their own benefit and those who they organise events for. If anyone is giving hivis or litter pickers out unless they have a disclaimer form and even then in my opinion is still leaves you open if there is an accident insurance is a must. I can get insurance through KBT for ones I organise. Some businesses have this also. E.g. I had employees of Hampshire’s sub contractor’s out on a litter pick who had their own insurance. Some Parish Councils can help especially if there is an employee organising. In the New Forest one group has found an insurer who covers litter picks on a 40mph road which I can’t do with KBT. Other National groups also give insurance e.g. Surfers Against Sewage.

In the "facts" section on your website you mention fast food litter being one of the most found type of waste. How should this be addressed and who should be held accountable?

It’s an ongoing battle with Big chains customers being the worst offenders. I don’t know why with their Spiel when they sell they can’t say “Please don’t litter” and have anti-litter poster(s) displayed. One massive action the Government can take is a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) to ensure cans and all bottles are returned. This would reduce so much litter.

Do you have any advice for spirited individuals, who might be triggered to start their own litter picking groups? Ask advice first for your own safety and others.

Know which is the best kit to use. If possible go out with someone or a group that has been involved for a number of years. I’m always happy to help.

Clean New Forest uses an interactive map to display locations of potential contacts on other volunteers. This is a very innovative approach to networking, what triggered you to create it?

The size of the New Forest is a factor and there are many unsung heroes who have been doing something in their area for years.

Our last question is the same for all respondents, if you could change one environmental problem overnight, what would it be? Why?

Back to DRS and Government legislation.

A final word by Eco Green Communities:

Eco Green Communities are about passionate individuals, socially conscious businesses and engaged Local Authorities, who don't hesitate to step out of their comfort zone to keep our country clean. Do you know a business or individual, who aspire to do so? Share your or their story with us by email: andrea@ecogreencommunities.com

Back to blog