How to Organise a Community Clean Up

Picking up litter is commendable, but a quick way to get litter-clearing done over a larger area is to organize a community clean up. It's a great way to get to know your neighbours and neighbourhood better, as well as ending up with cleaner streets!


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    Assess the possibilities: is there a lot of small-scale litter around that needs clearing to make your neighbourhood (school campus or whatever) look just that bit better and smarter? Note where the worst stuff is, its nature, and what could conceivably be done with a few hours' labour from a number of people.
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    Work with a community group (such as Neighbourhood Watch, residents' association, etc.) use this as a vehicle for reaching the local residents; if not, you will need to talk to quite a few of your neighbours and perhaps set up a meeting. Describe the problem and your potential solution. Be open to others' contributions to the discussion.
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    Agree a date and time. You don't want to ask people to spend more than an hour or two, so you need volunteers to feel that their time is worth spending in this way.
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    Purchase needed equipment, if funds are available (you can ask for contributions if necessary) buy heavy-duty rubberized gloves, rubbish bags and rent a skip/dumpster that can be sited in or near the site you intend to clean up. If you can't get a skip, ask the local authority if they will pick up the bags you collect.
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    Arrange a reward for volunteers -- have non-pickers-up bring drinks and snacks, cakes, etc., to hand out to pickers-up at the end of the cleaning session. This is a good way to allow participation by those whose disabilities or limitations might preclude them bending over a lot to pick up cigarette butts and crisp (potato chip) bags. If there's a community space, a bit of entertainment from the musically gifted whilst consuming the cakes is also a lot of fun and much appreciated.


  • Consider making a hand-washing facility of some sort available or providing anti-bacterial hand gel.
  • If mud, muck or other under-foot mess may be a problem, ask volunteers to wear rubber boots. In any case, be sure people have appropriate footwear!
  • Encourage participants to dress appropriately: hats, shirts and sunscreen or warm jackets and hats.


  • Avoid going on private property except with the owner's or tenant's express permission.
  • Be careful of picking up dog or cat feces - use a plastic bag as an additional 'glove'. Dog or cat feces can carry some fairly nasty diseases, and children in particular are liable to forget and touch their faces.
  • If it's hot, make sure there is drinking water available.
  • Be aware of some of the nasty things that could lurk in the trash: discarded hypodermic needles, used condoms, razor blades, etc. Decide what to do about these. Try to get a secure sharps container from the local authority and pick up these items with extreme caution.

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Categories: Pollution Prevention | Volunteer and Community Service