How To Organize A Successful Litter Cleanup
How to Organize A Successful Litter Cleanup | Written by Abby Abrahamson
In the summer of 2017, my hometown of Rehoboth, Massachusetts began gearing up for our 375th Anniversary Celebration in 2018. Rehoboth is a fringe rural town in southern New England, historically known as a farming community and the birthplace of public education in the United States. While today the number of farms are dwindling and the number of housing developments is growing, Rehoboth is still very proud of its rich farming background and is, in some ways, still a small town community at heart. Needless to say, we were gung-ho about celebrating our past.
As events were planned, the 375th Anniversary Committee strategized the best possible ways to bring the community together for this monumental occasion. A prominent issue in town is the abundance of roadside litter, so a town-wide litter cleanup was planned with the goal of getting the community involved in beautifying our town. Since I had recently launched a litter prevention program in town, the 375th Committee asked me to head the litter cleanup. With the help of an amazing group of people that formed the Keep Rehoboth Beautiful sub-committee, here’s how we organized the best cleanup possible to celebrate our town’s anniversary:
Plan The Basics
When do you want the event to take place? We planned the Keep Rehoboth Beautiful litter cleanup for April 22nd - April 28th. The event started on Earth Day and ended on the official day of the Great Massachusetts cleanup. We chose to have a week-long event, in an effort to increase our chance of participation and to avoid canceling our event due to a rainy day.
Be prepared to do some fundraising! Decide at the beginning what your costs will be, and create a spreadsheet to keep track. (Some of our costs included flyers and safety-green t-shirts for participants.) Next, figure out how you will raise that amount. We decided to fundraise by approaching local businesses about sponsoring the cleanup. In exchange for a $75 donation, the logo of the sponsoring business was put on the back of the event t-shirt.
Where will all of the collected trash go? The next step in organizing a successful litter cleanup is strategizing waste management. The Rehoboth Business Association donated nearly 600 trash bags that donned labels with instructions on them to our cleanup. The labels also displayed the phone number to the Rehoboth Highway Department. Participants simply called with the location of their bags, and the highway department picked them up. We were lucky that these two organizations offered their help willingly and at no cost to us. However, you could also contact a local trash pick-up company and see if they would collect the collected litter at a discounted rate, in exchange for advertisement through the event.
One of the most important components of a successful cleanup is the advertisement! There are a ton of ways to spread the word about your event. We handed out flyers, posted regularly on our social media page, and sent a press release to area news sources. In addition, a bulletin was added to our local TV channel and we asked local leaders such as the Board of Selectmen to join the cleanup. Be creative!
To recruit participants for the litter cleanup, we created an online registration form through Google forms. Since safety was a big concern for us, the form included a liability waiver and an option to sign up as a group or an individual. A paper registration form was also available at local businesses where the free trash bags were offered. Parents/guardians of minors were asked to sign a minor release form as well. The Keep Rehoboth Sub-Committee also held two info sessions at the highway department leading up to the event. At the info sessions, we gave an overview of the event and handed out t-shirts, safety guidelines, tick prevention tips, registration forms/waivers, and trash bags.
Once all of the planning was complete and the cleanup week arrived, it was time to jump in and pick up some litter! Around 200 people participated in the event. By the end of the week, the Rehoboth Highway Department had taken 15 dump truck loads of trash bags to the landfill! Once the cleanup was over, the sub-committee sent out a celebratory press release and wrote thank you notes to those who sponsored the event and to businesses that handed out the free trash bags. We are excited to begin organizing another litter cleanup soon, and hopefully, you feel inspired to do the same!