How to buy - Sweepers and collectors

Removal of leaves and litter is imperative if open spaces are to be kept clean and safe.

Leaves fall and the public drops litter — facts of life. But with today’s compensation culture and pressure from the Environmental Protection Act, both must be tackled swiftly.

Left lying around on pavements and other hard surfaces, leaves form a slippery mat — a hazard to pedestrians and one that is all too often followed by claims for injury. On turf, fallen leaves interfere with good culture, disrupt play and provide suitable conditions for pests and diseases. Litter also brings concerns. It, too, can cause accidents and presents a fire risk, but additionally attracts vermin and vandals.

Collection and removal of leaves and litter must be both time- and cost-effective. And, with an increasing demand fuelling the development of new equipment, there is now a wide choice of solutions, ranging from brooms through handheld or backpack-mounted blowers and vacs to wheeled kit and tractor-mounted machinery. There is something for all situations.

The equipment best suited to the task will depend on the area to be cleaned and the surfaces involved. The type of debris to be collected and the frequency of collection are the other major factors to consider.

When the amount of litter or debris is small, localised or short term, the quickest and most effective remedy may be to reach for a brush or rake. Various designs are available to help reduce the effort involved.

Handheld and backpack-mounted blowers are a good investment where the scale of the job is larger, more frequent or where the work is in an area with numerous obstacles such as seating and picnic tables.

Blowers can also be used to drive clippings back into hedge bottoms or onto lawns after hedgetrimming or mowing. In the autumn blowers can be used to push leaves under trees or into heaps to await collection. Blowers have the added advantage of being able to be used to clear puddles and dry off benches. Handheld vacs are good for removing crisp bags and sandwich wrappers from public picnic areas.

Larger dedicated machines, such as self-propelled and ride-on vacuums, are often more surface-specific. Some are intended for work on hard surfaces, such as pavements. These are usually available with options such as gutter-cleansing brushes. Others may be more suited to picking up leaves, aeration cores and light debris from grassed areas. Specialist equipment is also available to sweep and maintain synthetic pitches.

If you own a two-wheel tractor, it would be worth asking the dealer what is available in terms of brushes and sweepers. These machines are particularly versatile for estate work.

Self-propelled, riding and vehicle-mounted vacuums come in a variety of sizes and may have their own collection hoppers or may be designed for delivering debris into a cage on a flatbed or trailer. In all cases,

it is important that collection capacity is matched to the anticipated requirements to avoid repeated emptying. The width of the vacuum head will, in part, determine how fast the ground can be cleared. It is always worth looking at the range of accessories, including wander hoses for removing litter from awkward places and perhaps for emptying bins en route.

Large events such as outdoor shows, football matches, pop concerts and rallies can generate huge amounts of litter. And the litter can be varied, from ticket stubs to wine bottles. In this situation the requirement will be for a powerful vacuum — one that is up to the task and also suited to the terrain.

Large tractor-mounted or trailed equipment may be the most appropriate. It may be sensible to hire the equipment or to check out the services of contractors, especially if it is only likely to be required once or twice a year.

Where investment is made in vacuum equipment, remember to check the power requirement and compatibility with tractors and other towing vehicles. It is also worth considering add-ons, such as powered brushes, and exploring what other functions the equipment can perform. Many sweeper-type collectors double as scarifiers or flail mowers and could considerably extend the mac-hine’s use and spread the investment through increased versatility.

As with all kit, it is important to check out the performance of the product, the robustness of construction and availability of spare parts. And don’t forget to make sure that operators are suitably experienced and trained to use it.

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