Thanet’s volunteer litter-picking ‘army’ keeping our beaches, streets and parks clean

Socially distanced litter picking by Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate

Thanet’s volunteer litter picking groups and individuals prevented tonnes of rubbish being washed into the sea last year.

Members of groups such as the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate faced a mountain of rubbish left behind on beaches last year as visitors flocked to the isle after covid restrictions were eased.

Volunteers were confronted with litter and human waste as thousands headed to Margate Sands and Botany Bay amongst other isle beaches.

Barry Manners, who co-ordinates the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate, said: “There are a lot more volunteers out now. I pick up at least one full bag a day between Foreness Point and Joss Bay. There are also lots of other volunteers out daily with litter pick sticks.

Litter picking in 2020

“Taking into account the organised clear ups done with Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate  and other local residents last year I estimate at least 500 full, large refuse sacks of plastics, cigarette ends and wet wipes were removed. That’s over 2 tonnes of waste that might otherwise be floating out there to wash in on the tide.”

Barry says this month the beaches are much cleaner than they were in January last year, possibly due to a combination of less visitors, more volunteers and the amount of detritus that was removed by the groups last year.

He added: “Litter pick groups around the coast report they are finding less litter on the beaches. There’s been an increase in numbers of people cleaning beaches as part of their lockdown exercise.


“There is daily variation due to the weather and tides but last year I would regularly fill two large refuse sacks every day on Whiteness and Kingsgate beaches – and still leave loads behind. This year there’s often others there already picking and I often collect less than half a Tesco bag of rubbish. This has mostly been commercial fishing detritus, not the innumerable plastic food packages and plastic bags that that were a fixture of the beach landscape last winter.”

The Botany Bay group had some 20 litter pick sticks from Thanet council and, during lockdown, many have been handed over to locals to do their own thing while restrictions on gatherings remain.

Barry said Thanet council’s employment of beach cleaners last Summer also made a huge difference and he hopes to see them re-employed this Summer.

He added: “I think it’s worth stressing that without coordinated beach cleaning in the Summer tons of waste ends up in the sea to linger for years, damaging marine wildlife and occasionally washing up along the beaches throughout the year.

“Volunteers do a great job but in an area dependent on tourism it is first and foremost the council’s responsibility to keep beaches clean and not allow rubbish to simply wash out with the tide after every busy summer day.”

One of the Botany Bay volunteers is mum-of-three Susan Fribbance (pictured above with son Ted).

The retired district nurse said: “The beaches seem cleaner this year than they did last January. I am a volunteer beach litter picker and, along with a group of other volunteers, clean from Foreness Point up to Kingsgate.

“Last summer we were exceptionally busy so we had a rota system for each weekend to cover the cleaning. Without this dedicated work from volunteers the rubbish would have ended up in the sea.

“Thanet council also employed a beach cleaner so between us we managed to bag up an eye watering amount of rubbish.

“Hence we have much cleaner beaches now. If we are to maintain clean beaches then Thanet council will have to continue employing a cleaner along with the volunteering work of local residents.”

Holly and Sophia

Pharma worker Scott Manclark, 41, and his daughters Holly, eight, and Sophia, five, are also part of the isle’s litter picking army.

The Palm Bay family have been clearing rubbish on beaches and streets and in parks around the area they live in.

Scott said: “The girls have been continuing their battle against litter and have been attacking it on two fronts – that on the beach which has been washed in off the tide, normally fishing nets, and then the clifftop, Palm Bay estate and Northdown Park.

“The beaches have been the best they’ve looked for years thanks to efforts from all the local litter pickers and the council’s efforts during the busy summer months made an impact on preserving the beaches too.

“I do hope the council plan to do this in the Spring and Summer of 2021, planning ahead is crucial. It would be great to hear if plans are actually being worked on so we can work together to maintain the eco system of our coast.

“Once allowed, the girls and I will be arranging some more family group litter picks for all to attend which will include a short educational piece at the beginning targeted at the children attending. The girls and I want to thank everyone else who has been litter picking out there. There is quite an army of us now.”

Other local groups involved in isle clean ups have been Margate’s Rise Up volunteers (below) and members of Friends of Cliftonville Coastline who have recently renewed their campaign to clean up the streets.

Last Summer Thanet council activated it ‘Beach Management Plan’ to crack down on antisocial behaviour and parking, bye law breaches and littering.

Littering was targeted with temporary road signs encouraging people to take their litter home with them, 200 extra litter bins in place along the coastline  and dedicated beach cleansing crews on duty daily from 6am-10am and 4pm-8pm, litter picking and emptying bins.

Litter left on Margate Sands in June Photo Dan Thompson

The beach tractor/surf rake was out in the mornings on main beaches for large scale clearing and a re-organisation of the refuse fleet, enabling bigger vehicles to collect more litter from high footfall areas at weekends, took place.

Litter sacks were distributed to all bay inspectors to give to the people on the beaches and a new coastal supervisor was installed to work with bay inspectors and beach concessionaires, street and toilet cleansing teams and enforcement and CCTV officers.

Six groups you could join

Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate

Rise Up Clean Up Margate

Western Undercliff Regeneration Group

The Friends of Ramsgate Seafront

The Birchington Anti-Litter Group

Westgate Against Rubbish


  1. I would have thought the council would want to employ people to do this work now and then is fine I admire the volunteers doing this but don’t let the council use cheap labour there is plenty of people unemployed. I done this on behalf of the marine conservation society from 1996 up till recently the difference is we collected the data. This is nothing new a lot comes from shipping and rivers and moves down the coasts of the UK. If the council put the all bins back on the beaches in the summer months people would use them it’s common sense and the beach cleaners emptied the bins. Nothing worse than patronising people they would do it even more.In the winter months leave the beaches to nature bits of wood should be left on the beaches as they are habitats for beach animals etc under the sand.

  2. Dozens of people enjoying the Sunshine at Westbay Westgate all sitting down eating chips & drinking hot drinks served up by Westgate bay Cafe.
    So still unsure what the latest exercise rules are?. Does Anyone know ??

    • It’s quite clear. Exercise don’t socialise. How difficult is that to understand. We have people who will put their own interpretation of what’s Acceptable. Still as is mentioned it does help local businesses but this can be done and still ensure you don’t need to gather in groups. As someone has already observed, there are people who are “exercising” that would not normally even walk to their local shops, but because they can doesn’t mean they should. Common sense… a thing long gone in our society.

  3. Firstly, this should totally embarrass Thanet Council – that an army of volunteers are doing their job for them. It won’t though. They just see it as cheap labour. Secondly, I would support anyone putting in a set amount of hours litter picking in the area getting a Council Tax Discount. The council should recognise their efforts in doing their jobs for them and reward them for it.

  4. How do you think the council can afford to pay more litter pickers? Or anyone else for that matter during these extremely difficult times? Council income has plummeted with the number of people now claiming council tax relief and the number of businesses closing means less business rates too. The expenditure of other benefits have risen sharply too. I can only assume that people like Brian Smith-Stewart and others with a similar attitude have no experience whatsoever of working with budgets. Councils and government raise their money through taxes. So would you be willing to pay higher council tax to pay for more litter pickers? And with such limited council funds, how do you decide what takes priority. It is wonderful that we have such an army of volunteers to collect the litter. Litter which shouldn’t be there if everyone took their litter home with them. So ultimately it is people who are to blame – not the council. And the problem is not just here in Thanet – it is throughout the country.

    • I believe the residents of Thanet already pay higher Council Tax each year. Every year TDC raise it by the maximum amount they can do and the service offered slides further down the pan.

      If TDC didn’t push through their £300k staff pay rises this year that would pay for an extra 10 Street cleaners. If the Council didn’t waste the best part of £100k setting up ticketless parking in Trinity Square (which increased income by zero and didn’t save any money at all) that could have paid for a further 3. The list goes on.

      I have no doubt the Council are struggling financially. However, their constant waste of money, vanity projects hugely contribute to this so, yes, I do hold them accountable for their failure to provide a decent service to the residents. Many of these residents are struggling financially themselves yet find themselves saddled with inflation busting Council Tax rises this coming year to deal with whilst also having to see the place in a disgusting, filthy state.

      Most local Councils around the country are in a similar financial state yet Thanet is, hands down, the filthiest place I have ever seen in the UK which is some accolade.

      • You can see it too ?

        All public buildings are extremely filthy , failing the duty of care as if it’s inapplicable to the public sector , or as with winter gardens contracted out to a quasi charity operator barely managing to keep the lights on,

        Other sectors would face enforcment for such abandonment of lack of interest and basic care for public safety ,
        Even on venues historically built for the public

  5. Another group to add to the above list – Palm Bay and Northdown Park Litter Pickers – organised by Scott Manclark and his two daughters.

  6. “So would you be willing to pay higher council tax to pay for more litter pickers?”

    Yes, absolutely, as well as sweeping ALL our streets every week too, just like they used to do. These should be council priorities, far, far beyond the vanity projects of the 21st Century.

    • You are right again, vanity projects, in full view of total irresponsible abandonment of land marks in danger of risk to human health and safety .

      Time and time again these elected campaigns are not organising what we have, or pledge to get the job done expected in local roles .

      Instead campaigning on public money available for professionals with a new vanity project, to please who exactly,

      Suffering people here have declined into accepting the broken down landmark buildings, of no interest to commission hunting professionals.

      No energy in putting right decades of decay , on the already built situations , clearly brow beaten into opening new ground breaking schemes ,

      Getting away with the electorates adjustment to collapsing land marks
      The clock tower , left to volunteer groups as if not public buildings
      Avoiding policing or pressure to remove the inadequate present key holders again as if not public exercise facilities.

      Where’s the leadership to match fund , coordinate improvements to existing buildings, forging new ways forward, rather than driving by as if not within the ward elected to represent.

  7. The Council is not “them”.
    It’s “us”.
    The job of the council is, through the elected members, to carry out our lawful wishes.
    But the Council can only do those things if there’s the money. As soon as there is the prospect of Council Tax going up (to pay for things like litter pickers) these pages are awash with indignant burghers protesting about the “hike” proposed.
    And I don’t think most of the litter on our beaches comes from ships and so on. It comes from people visiting the coast and chucking their rubbish around.
    To help out Jo, Barry and Peter, here are the rules:
    1) Stay at home.
    2) You can exercise (walk, jog, run, cycle) with one other person not in your household. You must stay at least 2 metres away from other people not in your household.

    It wouldn’t be unreasonable to have some refreshments (eg a bag of chips) if that was an integral part of your exercise.

    • I know the rules (thanks anyway), though I do believe that they should be tougher like Wales, where it is illegal to drive for exercise.

      • You have a point

        Our coastline is highly dangerous, the lido , the winter gardens, shelters smashed to pieces,

        Winter gardens is an insurance nightmare, all councillors regardless of ward elected have a responsibility to residents of the whole wider electorate whom need to exercise on dangerous disgraceful situations, wether by voluntary groups or quasi government or odd set up quasi charity companies acting as worlds worst private sector operators.

        Never do we hear of removal of breach of contract or pulling together ways forward,

        Arlington house being a great example

  8. 1. The Government should make all bottles (glass & plastic) DEPOSIT items.
    2. Fines must be more stringently imposed (TDC).
    3. CCTV should be used to find out who the litteridiots are.
    The above are only what the Germans and Dutch have organised for their beaches. The fines more than pay for damages done to our beauty spots. (beaches).

  9. The volunteers do an excellent job.
    But we shouldn’t blame Thanet Council as we are seeing the growth of a new society that was planned by David Cameron and his Tory government.
    He called it “The Big Society” and it was one of his flagship projects.
    By reducing the amount of money coming from central government to local Councils, he planned to oblige the local Councils to either increase the local Community Charge(always unpopular) or to close down local services like Youth Clubs, Libraries, street cleaning etc.
    He praised the use of volunteers to do all the jobs that used to be done by professional Youth Workers, Librarians and street cleaners. It was seen as a “good thing”, almost creating a better world!
    Ironically, of course. supporters of his Party are now complaining about the poor services we get and insisting that more people are employed to do these vital jobs! But only in places with a Labour -run Council!

  10. Agreed there are not enough bins also no recycling bins the summertime is madnesses not a sight of council cleaners
    On beach front maybe putting up council tax which is already higher than most London areas the council could provide recycling bins on beach fronts and open public areas and of course manage to empty them this is 2021 ….

  11. This may be of interest to those defending the Council’s role in all this. In the budget for 20/21 the Council Tax rose again by the maximum it can do by law without having to hold a referendum. Part of the explanation was that TDC were going to employ an extra 10 staff to work in the waste and recycling team. This was to ensure the streets were cleaner.

    So far so good ? Those on here saying they don’t mind paying more Council Tax to pay for extra street cleaning are presumably ok with this.

    Fast forward a year. Councillor Alan Currie then admits that these staff have never actually been recruited. Blames it on Covid but bear in mind pretty much every other organisation has been able to carry on recruiting in the last 12 months – especially for something so important.

    So, you have all paid extra Council Tax for no benefit whatsoever to the cleanliness of our streets. You’ve all been hoodwinked if you believe this extra money you have paid has somehow gone into making things better. The staff haven’t even been employed yet the Council is still facing an in year overspend of millions.

    It’s farcical and this is why I don’t just blame lazy locals for these problems (although clearly they don’t help). It’s systemic failure of senior management and systemic failure of elected member oversight and challenge.

    • Particularly the systemic failure of elected members , whom need reminding of the lowest tier of local government responsibilities, the maintenance of existing facilities.
      Not European politics, Not global politics.
      That’s for members of parliament.

      How about paying close attention to the situations and inability of operators to fulfil contractually obliged maintenance.

      Monitor closely the failures of roadways,
      How about the town clock tower ?

      Decaying high streets with abandoned planting borders , at least coordinating relevant local commerce groups or voluntary groups .

      Rather than running away upon discovering it’s not TDC responsibility.

  12. Perhaps those on jobseekeer’s allowance or universal credit who have been given the extra £20 a week , nothing wrong with that in these times. It is meant to be stoping , yes times are hard , but for those who are able what’s wrong with sending them out a couple of times a week with a list of roads to pick up rubbish from , social distancing can still apply . Should they not wish to go they don’t get the extra £20 . Binmen same as postmen have worked all the time .

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