This year, World Cleanup Day—a global social action movement created to combat the world’s solid waste problem—occurs on Saturday, September 17. Started in 2008 by Let’s Do It World, a civic organization in Estonia, the movement brings together 60 million volunteers from 191 countries on one day to clean up litter and other mismanaged waste from forests, streets, beaches, and waterways.
If you or your organization would like to participate, it’s not too late. Here are eight steps to take:
1. Pick a location and make a plan.
When choosing a site to clean up, you’ll want to consider and plan for issues such as how people will get there and how the waste will be collected. Calculate how many volunteers and what sort of tools and resources will be needed. Be sure to assess any the site’s risks to volunteers. Determine where volunteers will first meet upon arrival, which specific areas will be cleaned, and where filled bags of waste and recyclables should be placed for final collection.
2. Contact partners and volunteers.
Contact the local municipality to gain permission and learn how to best dispose of the waste that you collect. Recycle as much waste collected as possible. Some organizations might be willing to donate supplies and tools you’ll need, such as garbage bags, brooms, and pick-up sticks, along with transportation and refreshments for volunteers.
Let volunteers know what to expect that day, including what you’ll be providing and what they’ll need to bring for themselves. Register them formally, in case you need their contact information. Promote your event to the community to encourage participation and create a buzz around your efforts.
4. Kick off the cleanup.
Prepare the meeting point with clear information and signage for parking, registration, bathroom facilities, and waste disposal. Provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitizer. Make sure the head of the event can be always reached via a good means of communication, such as a fully charged cell phone or walkie talkie. Welcome all the volunteers, providing cleanup and safety instructions upon their arrival.
5. Assist volunteers.
Be sure that volunteers are being cautious when collecting waste, as some might be hazardous. If someone finds weapons or other suspicious items, contact the local police. Provide first aid as needed.
6. Sort and report.
Sort the collected waste and separate any materials that can be recycled. Count the bags of waste and the number of volunteers who worked at that location, and report your numbers to Let’s Do It headquarters.
7. Celebrate and thank you.
While the day can be a lot of work, it should also be fun. Celebrate the volunteers by cheering them on. Sing songs and dance! Take photos of the event, including a group picture, and share the efforts over social media. Most importantly, take a moment to thank everyone who participated.
8. Wrap up the day.
Manage and dispose collected waste appropriately. Make sure not to leave anything behind, including any new waste that might have been produced at the site by participants.
To learn more, download the complete World Cleanup Guidelines.