Encouraging individual responsibility the North Hill way

For many years people in our rural parish of North Hill in Cornwall have been picking up litter. But to some of us it all seemed very random and the parish always seemed littered. Some areas were spotless but most were untouched. We weren’t covering the whole parish and some of us found this very frustrating.

So twelve of us came together and decided that a solution would be for us to parcel up every stretch of lane in the parish. Each of us then took on sole responsibility for one patch. We took a parish map and coloured each patch of lanes to make sure all were covered. Then we each took responsibility for the patch closest to our home.

This scheme has worked really well for several years. The relief for each of us is considerable. We don’t have to worry about litter except in our patch. We can litter pick our patch when we have the time and when needed. When we pass litter in other parts of the parish we can ignore it. We can be confident that another member of the group will have it covered. Other members of the parish may be picking too and that is a bonus.

These signs follow our litter picks promote the 'litter free' message

Our long term aim has to be to prevent litter being there in the first place. Having a much cleaner parish probably does deter some litterers. But we have also invited members of the parish ( farmers, publican, school, garage, football club, village hall committee …) to sign up as partners to the project. They commit in the long term to do what they can to help keep the parish clean. We try to bring other members of the parish on board through pieces in the parish news.

For us the key to having a sustainable anti litter effort is to make it easy for each activist to make an impact with the least amount of effort: individual responsibility for a patch, no group picks that need co-ordinating and no need for everyone to meet.

We do have a core group who meet from time to time to help ensure that we continue to operate effectively and the whole group has a social at the pub once a year. Our equipment is provided by the council. We are insured as volunteers as long as we work to their risk assessment, a simple list for each of us to follow. Twice a year we pick our two B roads, working in pairs with the council team. We know we will never win totally but we do now have a parish that we can be proud of.

Roger Catchpole


  1. Of course all should pay for plastic bags. Another aspect:

    As a litter-picker what really upsets me is hearing how common it is now for anyone young who dies or is killed by some maniac has balloons and chinese lanterns let off in their memory. Is there anyway to highlight how appalling this is to animals on land and sea without sounding too insensitive? I was totally depressed that this happened in the case of this little girl April Jones in Wales. Can people not show their sorrow and respect for others without causing so much misery to wildlife and farmed animals whose lives are already so compromised by our thoughtlessness?

  2. I would like to see a very heavy fine brought in for throwing litter of any kind, by this I mean maybe a £1000. This sounds heavy, but after the first few high profile cases, people would get it, especially if backed up by a government TV & Press advertisiing campaign, & we would have a country to be proud of, instead of the ‘third word’l profile that we have ended up with in many areas. We should be proud to have a litter free Britain, this is a great country spoilt by litter & graffiti in too many areas!

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