Trash doesn’t belong in nature… let’s clean it up!

The impact you have by hosting a Clean Up goes far beyond the aesthetic benefits. Reducing the amount of trash in your community/beach will allow the opportunity for living things to flourish in addition to establishing a beautiful community.

Toolkit Details

Why It’s Important

Trash damages the environment, harms animals/people, wastes municipal/district money, and makes communities feel under-valued.

What You Will Accomplish 

Participants will take action to host a Clean Up event in their community or local beach.

Why Should You Host a Community/Beach Clean Up?

The resources provided can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.

Beach Clean Ups are Important!

As waste continues to grow across the world, reducing the amount of trash in the environment becomes an ever growing necessity. Oceans in particular require much needed attention due to the dangers imposed by excess waste on marine life. Coastal regions and supporting waters employ over 28 million people, which rely on a clean environment to operate. In addition, 85% of US tourist attractions are located along coastal regions, which highlights the importance of beach Clean Ups. [1]

Trash Can Land on Our Plate!

Without thoughtful waste processing, a significant amount of trash can enter the environment and disrupt food webs. As various levels of marine life consume human disposed trash, the concentration of plastics increases with increasing trophic levels. When we catch and consume these fish, we are also ingesting some of the items they consumed as well. According to a study in Belgium, it is estimated that the average seafood consumer eats 11,000 micro fragments of plastic annually, which can accumulate in our body and have varying health issues. [2]

Trash Travels!

A plastic wrapper dropped in the parking lot doesn’t stay there for long. It gets blown to the curb, washed through storm drains into rivers, and out to sea. Scientists estimate that almost 9 million tons of plastic litter end up in the ocean—every year. This is the equivalent of five grocery bags filled with plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world. [3]

Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to reduce waste!

Waste is an Environmental Justice Issue

Oftentimes, BIPOC and/or disenfranchised communities have a higher rate of litter according to many studies such as the CalEnviron Screen. These communities do not have access to as much waste removal as their wealthier counterparts and usually consume more items–such as fast food and other single use packaging–which turn into litter. Also, recycling facilities, waste transfer stations, incinerators, and landfills are often placed in developing regions internationally or in disenfranchised communities domestically. Any one or a combination of these facilities can cause widespread pollution in addition to health issues for communities that live nearby.

Let’s think about it…? 

  • How does excess waste and litter affect the environment? 
  • What are ways to reduce the amount of waste we create and how can we better manage it?
  • What are the implications of trash entering the food web and ecological communities? How does this affect humans?
  • Why do individuals deliberately throw trash into the environment?

How to Start a Community/Beach Clean Up

Follow the steps below to set up a successful Community/Beach Clean Up! Need help? Contact us!

Step 1: Create a Lead Team

Who is leading the Clean Up? A class, club, student government?

Step 2: Decide Who’s Participating

As a team, decide who is planning the event and how you will gather people to participate in your Beach/Community Clean Up. Use our Community/Beach Clean Up Sign Up Sheet to stay organized. In addition, review our Community/Beach Clean Up Invite and Safety Guidelines to ensure each participant stays safe.

Step 3: Pick a Location

Where do you want to host your Clean Up event? Make a list of public areas in your community that would benefit from your campaign. Use our Community/Beach Clean Up Organizer to make note of your selected location.

  • Examples
    • Beach
    • Park
    • Rivers/Lake

Step 4: Make a Plan

Before you start gathering participants for your clean up, it is important to plan out the logistics. Use our Community/Beach Clean Up Organizer to keep track of your plan. Here are some important things to consider:

  • Determine a date and time to host your clean up event.
  • Do you need permission or a permit to host a clean up event?
  • How long will your clean up event last?
  • Will clean up materials be given to participants or should they bring their own?
  • Where will you dispose of the trash after it is picked up?
  • Will you host any activities before, during, or after the clean up event?

Team up with an organization to host your clean up event! Creating a partnership with groups like Surfrider, Heal the Bay, or your local municipal office, can help grow participant interest and they can provide you with the materials you need to lead a successful clean up.

Step 5: Get the Word Out

Now that you have your clean up event organized, it’s time to invite people to join you! There are multiple ways you can find volunteers to join; here are a few ideas:

  • Invite your friends and family
  • Create flyers to post around your school campus and/or community
  • Create an Instagram or other social media account for your team that team members can access and post on (if your school already has an account, ask if they can feature your event)
  • Create an event on Facebook and invite fellow students and friends

If using Instagram, make sure the Instagram account is a business account. This will allow you to see impact statistics on how many people you are able to reach, how many people share your posts, etc!

Create a free account on Canva and use their social media templates to create instagram posts/flyers.

Step 6: Prepare Your Materials

Gather your supplies for the clean up event and find an accessible location where they can be stored. This can include:

Use the Litterati app for your Clean Up. Litterati will provide a code that all participants can use. Take pictures of what you collect during the clean and Litterati will track how much waste your clean up saved from your community!

Step 7: Launch Your Clean Up

Now that you have your plan, participants, and materials in place, it’s time to launch your Clean Up! Here are some ideas to make your event run smoothly:

  • Post signs to lead participants towards your clean up location
  • Have a centralized location where participants can dispose of their trash. Store everything here until you finish your clean up.
  • Keep track of all the trash you pick up with our Community/Beach Clean Up Tracker

If you are hosting a beach clean up, you can separate plastic from sand by putting large handfuls in a bucket of water. Many plastics are buoyant and will float to the surface when you mix the sand/water mixture.

Step 8: Dispose of Your Trash Safely

Congratulations! Now that you’ve collected all of the trash in your selected location, it’s important to dispose of it properly. Here are some places to you can responsibly throw your trash away:

  • Local waste hauler
  • School dumpster
  • Dumpster at Clean Up location (if applicable)

Step 9: Measure Your Success

Use the data your team gathered and complete the Community/Beach Clean Up Wrap-Up Form.

How’d it go…? 

  • What were some small wins that happened during your project? 
  • What could you do to up your game next time?
  • What personal changes will you make to reduce your energy consumption?

Provided Resources