Planning A Trash Cleanup

Volunteers collect trash along a local river.

Cleaning up a local river or stream is a great way to bring your community together to care for local waters. Depending on the conditions, this event may be family focused or more fitting for adults with special skills.

Either way, use the opportunity to get your community outside and enjoying the outdoors while making a difference

Find An Existing Event

Chances are, there’s already a trash cleanup near you that you can participate in, and you may not need to plan your own!

First, check the TU Event Calendar to see if your local chapter or a nearby chapter has a trash cleanup already planned. If not, reach out to them and offer to help plan one with their support!

Check the local media, search on Google and join local Facebook groups to see if other organizations like land trusts or watershed associations have a cleanup going on. Join their event to help out, but also as a way to learn how they run one and meet people who may want to volunteer at your event.

Event Planning

Determine the event vision

Is your team looking to organize a one-time event, start an annual community clean-up day, or something else entirely? Once a vision is in mind, your team will be able to think through the logistics, collaborating with partners and incorporating a safety plan, trash removal, and fun.

Confirm logistics

Research the conditions for the site your team is considering for this endeavor. Be aware of safety concerns, access and amenities to make for a safe, enjoyable and effective outing.

Being aware of the conditions will help your team determine what supplies to provide based on your inventory as well as the supplies you will want to encourage your participants to bring, if able (e.g. gloves, litter pickers, waders, boots, water shoes, refillable water bottles, reusable trash collection items (e.g. nets, reusable grocery bags, buckets)).

Draft a safety plan to generate safety awareness ahead of the event (introduce waiver(s), identify site safety concerns, etc.), provide waiver(s) and a safety overview at the start of the event and organize a safety response in case of emergency.

Confirm the trash disposal plan. Determine if participants will be asked to collect trash while separating recycled materials, simply collect items as trash, etc. Identify where participants are to bring items and how and when it will be removed from the site permanently.

Determine if your team will offer restrooms and/or refreshments to participants. Offering drinking water refills, snacks and oftentimes lunch can boost an event from mediocre to memorable.

Take some time to consider how to incorporate some fun and engagement into the event. Will you offer a trash bingo card competition (first person to collect a shoe, soda can, t-shirt, 3 feet of fishing line and a piece of styrofoam gets a prize)? Is there a prize for the most unique item found? Will trash art be constructed by artists?

Once the event vision is more concrete, determine the volunteer support that will be necessary to have a safe and fun event. This may include a set-up crew, greeters at a registration table, volunteer photographer, refreshment staff, event clean-up team and more.

Recruit support

Work with your team to determine how to best invite your community to participate to bring your event vision to life. This may include creating a TU event, press releases, social media messaging, email invitations, word of mouth and other personal invites.

During the Event

Kick off the event with a warm welcome complete with an inspirational message and logistics (waivers, safety reminder, event plan, etc.). This offers a great start to a great day for participants!

Throughout the event, plan to have a few leaders check-in with participants to share appreciation for their help and address any questions. This helps provide information and build rapport amongst the participants and the event organizers.

Remember, capturing images of participants having fun and making a difference are a great way to show impact but also inspire participants to maintain their momentum while encouraging others to join the fun. Before and after photographs are also a dramatic storytelling tactic that should be incorporated into the plan. Consider recruiting at least one photography volunteer, along with drafting a shot list, to capture compelling images.

Post Event Impact

Consider organizing a press release to share with local media highlighting the impact from your effort. This is a great way to show appreciation for those who participated as well as raise awareness around your efforts in the community.

Use #cleanmywater and @troutunlimited on Facebook and Instagram to share your trash cleanup pictures to join and inspire thousands of TU members and supporters like your team to keep our rivers clean, and to encourage other families to get out on the water and make a difference together.