Before the Cleanup

Ready to organize your own cleanup? Here’s what to do next.

Volunteers at an International Coastal Cleanup event in Chicago - Photo: © Peter Hoffman / Aurora Photos

Pick a Location

Identify beaches or waterways in your area that could be cleaned and that are safe and accessible. Contact the local parks agency that oversees the cleanup location to make sure you have the necessary permission to be there and determine what to do with the trash and recyclables you collect.

Visit the site in advance of the cleanup date to determine:

  • Where to set up a check-in station
  • Where to leave bags of trash and recyclables
  • What areas volunteers will clean

Contact Your Crew

Encourage friends, family and colleagues to get involved and help you organize your cleanup. Meet up to plan the event and assign roles.

Spread the word by telling everyone about the cleanup through email, social media and e-vites.

Here’s a sample Facebook post:

I strongly believe that no matter where we live, the ocean is our life support system. That's why I’m teaming up with Ocean Conservancy to help keep our ocean and waterways clean, and I'd like you to join me! I’m hosting a cleanup at [location] on [date and time]. I hope to see you there!

Get Supplies

Determine what kinds of supplies you will need, such as:

  • Work gloves for volunteers (or have your volunteers bring a pair of gloves with them)
  • Water cooler with enough water to keep volunteers properly hydrated, especially in warm temperatures (or have your volunteers bring their own)
  • First-aid kit for minor cuts and scrapes
  • Trash bags (or have your volunteers bring reusable containers, like buckets)
  • Sign-in sheet to record the number of participants and enable you to contact them later with thanks and photos
  • Pens or pencils
  • Cleanup data forms
  • Optional: If you have a fish or a luggage scale (a scale with a hook) at home, you can use it to weigh the trash you collect

Keep These Safety Tips in Mind

Review what to do in case of a health emergency (heat exhaustion or heatstroke, broken bone, etc.) and find out whether any of your volunteers have medical training or know basic first aid.

When visiting the site, look for natural and man-made safety hazards, such as rocky areas, highly variable tides, poisonous plants, high-speed roads, power lines, etc. If necessary, inform your volunteers that they may need to dress accordingly, such as wearing long pants or closed-toed shoes.

Plan ahead for handling sharp items, including syringes or pieces of broken glass. We recommend disposing of these items in a container with a tight screw lid, such as an empty liquid laundry detergent bottle that you have clearly labeled.

Find out how to contact your local Fish and Wildlife Service office in case you encounter any dead, entangled or injured wildlife. You can report these finds on your data form, but be sure to leave any wildlife handling to the experts.

Start a Rippl Effect

Download our mobile app, and take simple, everyday action to reduce your personal footprint.


Do-It-Yourself Cleanup Tool Kit

Want to start your own cleanup? Get started here.

During the Cleanup

Ready to start cleaning up? Here’s what to do next.

After the Cleanup

Finished cleaning up? Here’s what to do next.

Sign Up to Clean Up

Join the world's largest volunteer effort for our ocean and waterways by participating in the International Coastal Cleanup.

International Coastal Cleanup

Volunteers collected more than 16 million pounds of trash during Ocean Conservancy's 2016 International Coastal Cleanup. Here's what they found.

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