How to Organize a Community Cleanup in Your Neighborhood

Many of our communities aren’t as clean as we’d like them to be. It’s a bad feeling to see your neighborhood or your favorite park cluttered with fast food wrappers, soda cans, cigarette butts, and all the waste of modern life.

But there’s something you can do about it! Around the world, people are taking up their trash grabbers and lawn bags to tackle waste in their neighborhoods. Organizing a community cleanup is something great that you and your friends and neighbors can do for your community. We’ll show you seven steps to get people organized and ready to clean.


This examination into ways of cleaning up our neighborhoods was written by the team at PlasticPlace.

volunteers at community cleanup
Source: FrameStockFootages/Shutterstock.com

Seven Tips for a Good Community Cleanup

  1. Pick a realistic project that matters to you.

Your first task is to pick a specific cleanup project that you’ll do for your community. This will give you a task around which to organize your event and a goal to strive for. The cleanup task might be any of the following:

  • Picking up litter in a specific park, beach, river, or other community area
  • Removing graffiti from buildings
  • Cleaning up after a big event
  • Beautifying a natural space

Not sure what you want to do? Ask other residents of your community which areas need cleanup the most. They’ll almost certainly have some suggestions for places that could use some help.

  1. Plan out how you’ll approach your project.

Your cleanup project will need to have some basics established first.

  • Goals: How large of an area would you like to clean? Are there certain areas you’d like to focus on? How many volunteers might you reasonably need to clean a space this big?
  • Date: Pick a date for your cleanup, as well as a potential rain date.
  • Staging Area: Your cleanup event needs a place for people to meet up, get supplies, drop off trash, and use the restroom. This can be anything from a park shelter to a local business that’s agreed to let you meet there. (Don’t plan to use any business’s property unless you’ve talked to the owners first!)
  • Supply List: Assemble a list of all necessary supplies for completing your project. (We’ll talk more about this shortly.)
  • Volunteers and Recruitment: How many volunteers do you need? How many do you expect? How will you find people who are interested and recruit them? Do you need volunteers with specific skills or resources? Get answers for all of these questions.
  • Permits: Some of these projects will require a little cooperation from your local parks district or city government. You might need to contact these agencies and ask for access to the land or other resources, so be sure to get permission as early in the planning process as possible.
  1. Recruit team leaders.

For a small cleanup event, you might be the only leader necessary. If you’re planning on recruiting more than a handful of people, however, it’s good practice to create a basic leadership structure. It will help folks know who to come to with a problem and allow you to delegate tasks to people you know are capable.

Splitting volunteers into teams and assigning each team a captain is one easy and time-tested way to do it. Captains should take responsibility for things like volunteer headcounts, supply distribution, and making sure that all of the collected waste arrives at the pickup point. As we’ll see in the next section, they can also help you recruit other volunteers.

man picking up waste
Source: novak.elcic/Shutterstock.com
  1. Spread the word.

Time to let the people know! Put your recruiting plan into action and start getting volunteers together. Social media and email are the primary tools that most volunteer organizations use to tell people about volunteering opportunities, and they’re among the easiest places to start.

Posting on your personal social media to recruit friends and family is a great way to get started. Ask these close contacts to bring along people from their social circles as well. Another great way to get a boost in volunteers is to ask local churches to put the word out during the announcements they make every Sunday.

If your team captains are comfortable doing it, put some of them in charge of organizing a volunteer force and marshaling them at the appropriate time and place. (This is the kind of task that will make you grateful you don’t have to do it all yourself!)

  1. Get your supplies together.

Different types of community cleanup tasks will require different project supplies. A graffiti cleaning might require heavy duty cleaning chemicals, while a river cleaning might require waders and other water gear.

However, for a typical community trash pickup event, the supplies you’ll need will be along these lines:

  • Trash Bags: You might be able to use some made from renewable materials, but it’s possible you’ll need bags rugged enough to handle just about anything you can throw at them (or in them).
  • Trash Grabbers: These long sticks with mechanical claws at the end are important for picking up trash safely.
  • Vehicle: You’ll usually need a vehicle to transport supplies and/or trash. A pickup truck is the standard choice, but other types can work in a pinch.
  • Matching T-Shirts: You don’t necessarily need matching t-shirts for your cleanup crew, but matching colors can make your group leaders easy to spot.
  • Sunscreen/Bug Spray: You and your volunteers should apply these before heading out.
  1. Get to cleaning.

Public spaces don’t clean themselves! It’s time for you and your volunteers to head out and execute the cleaning plan. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy getting outside!

Remember that, when you’re done, you’ll be responsible for correctly disposing of any and all trash that your volunteers bring back. Make sure you’ve got a solution organized for transporting it all to the dump or another designated drop-off point.

  1. Do something fun with other volunteers afterward.
girl collecting waste
Source: mother_ana/Shutterstock.com

Volunteering is also a great opportunity to get to know people in your community. After everyone finishes the community cleanup project, think about something fun that you can get together to do afterward. You might all go out for lunch or drinks together, or just sit around relaxing in your newly clean public space. Won’t that be the best feeling?

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