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Time for a Spring Clean

This month sees the annual Great British Spring Clean, an initiative established by Keep Britain Tidy to encourage everyone, from individuals to community groups and schools, to come together and pledge to pick up a bag of litter in their local area. In 2023, over 400,000 bags of rubbish were collected, and in their 70th anniversary year, Keep Britain Tidy are trying to surpass that number.


You might wonder what picking up litter has to do with mental health, but this simple act can have a much wider impact than just making things look tidier.


By collecting litter, the Great British Spring Clean aims to bring people together to do their bit for the planet – dropped rubbish causes harm to the climate and wildlife, and some of it lasts a lifetime. Litter pickers regularly find ‘retro’ rubbish from decades ago that is still impacting the environment, long after it was useful. Thousands of tonnes of litter blight the streets, beaches and parkland of Britain, and by inspiring people to get involved, Keep Britain Tidy hope to change attitudes and behaviours towards the way we treat our rubbish for future generations.


Litter damages more than the planet - it also impacts our opinions of where we live. If an area looks dirty and unkempt, the people living there stop caring about it too, eventually leading to physical decline that is an uphill struggle to put right. The decay of an area can seep into the people living there, causing them to feel gloomy, unvalued and without hope – much like what they see around them.


By taking the time to look after the place where you live, by making sure it looks tidy, vibrant and cared for, you gain a sense of pride in your community and start to feel more vibrant yourself. This is even more true if the community come together and all join in – there is a communal sense of pride in how the area looks, and in the knowledge that a group has come together with a shared goal and made a positive difference.


Volunteering to get involved can also be a welcome distraction. Many of us naturally spend a lot of time thinking about our own troubles or feelings, the impact they have on our lives and what we’re going to do about them. But by stepping outside of your own little bubble and doing something self-less, you can see things from a different perspective and gain some time and space from your thoughts. Giving something back to the community can give a sense of reward and pleasure that boosts your self-esteem and sense of worth, making you feel more fulfilled and purposeful.


A litter pick can also be a social affair, where you join forces with friends, or meet like-minded people who share similar values to you. Combined with spending time outdoors, and likely being active, this can be an uplifting activity that helps to reduce isolation and boost your mood.


Even if you are unable to join in with the official Great British Spring Clean, that doesn’t mean you can’t be involved. Litter is there all year round, so you can head out to collect it at any point and still gain all the benefits of doing something positive, for you, your community and the planet!

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