How to Conduct a Litter Cleanup - Getting Started

The Great American Cleanup of PA is part of the national Great American Cleanup from March 1st through May 31st. Pennsylvania's focus day is Saturday, April 26th. Communities are being asked to organize and conduct local cleanups - recruit volunteers, promote your event, and report your results for inclusion in statewide and national cleanup totals.

Business and trade organizations, state government agencies, environmental and civic organizations, and many others, have all volunteered to assist local communities with conducting successful and safe cleanups.

  • PennDOT's regional and county offices will provide free supplies, including gloves, safety vests and trash bags to registered cleanup groups. Find PennDOT contacts.
  • Environmental and civic groups will provide answers and assistance in organizing and preparing your cleanup. Find local contacts.

You will find a wealth of information on this website. Follow these steps to organize and conduct a successful litter cleanup in your community.

  1. Get Organized
  2. Get Registered 
  3. Promote your Event
  4. Order Supplies 
  5. Review Cleanup Safety
  6. Have A GREAT Cleanup
  7. Report Your Results 

How to Conduct a Litter Cleanup - Get Organized

Tips for Organizing a Cleanup in Your Community

  • Register - Registered Cleanup Groups can order free supplies courtesy of PennDOT. Registered groups can also report the results of their cleanups to the Great American Cleanup of PA website to have their collection added to the statewide and nationwide totals.
  • Find Volunteers - Scouts, Local Civic Clubs, High-School Environmental and Service Clubs, Church Youth Groups, Sports Teams - will all offer enthusiastic support. Many scouting and service clubs are always looking for opportunities to earn badges and other credits. Contact the leaders of these organizations and find out what they are willing to do. Invite them to meet informally to brainstorm cleanup ideas for your community. Once you get them together, you now have people who can be called on to help you organize and carry out the cleanup.
  • Get your Local Government Involved - Invite representatives of your local municipal government, police, public works crews, and the local fire department in your brainstorming sessions. At the very least, make sure local officials and police are aware of where and when you will be conducting your cleanup. Ask your local police for traffic and public safety assistance. If you live in a community that does not have local police protection, contact your local State Police barracks for assistance. Local government may offer to provide collection and disposal of trash your group collects.
  • Create a Realistic Cleanup Plan and Conduct a Thorough Site Survey BEFORE cleanup day.
    • Visit the site you plan to clean and make sure you will have the people and equipment to conduct the cleanup. Appliances, Tires, Batteries and Chemicals can be difficult to dispose of. Make sure you have a place to dispose of these items. Many counties offer Hazardous Household Waste, White Good and Tire collection events. Contact your County Recycling Coordinator for more information.  If your county has a KAB or KPB affiliate, they can be used as a resource as well.
    • If your event is planned for public property such as a park, make sure you have the necessary permissions. Be aware of private property and get permission from landowners before going on their land. If you plan to clean along a state highway, contact your local PennDOT office for information. Make sure you have safe parking and gathering areas for your volunteers. Roadside litter can be dangerous. Review Safety Information. Do not open coolers, jugs, bottles and other sealed containers. Report any suspicious or dangerous items to police immediately. Make sure children are not left unattended near highways, water or illegal dumps.
  • Promote Your Event - Most local media outlets are more than willing to promote community events. Notify your local newspapers, TV and radio stations. If you are uncomfortable talking with reporters, find a volunteer who will take on that responsibility. Contact local school, church and community newsletters to have your information published. Download and print posters and get volunteers to help distribute them to schools and businesses.
  • Find Local Sponsors - Local businesses may wish to donate cleanup supplies, refreshments, or transportation, or provide a cleanup team to compete against other companies. Others may wish to pay for advertising or promotional items. Challenge your community to make a difference.
  • Organize Cleanup Teams - Volunteer groups should select a Team Leader. Leaders should thoroughly review cleanup safety information and discuss safety with team members, make sure the team gathers at the appropriate place and that vehicles are well off roadways, distribute cleanup supplies, and oversee the team's cleanup efforts.
  • Be Prepared for a Big Turnout - People throughout Pennsylvania recognize that litter is more than a nuisance. Litter is dangerous to people and animals, it is expensive to clean up, hurts property values, and erodes our sense of community pride.

How to Conduct a Cleanup - Safety

  • Involve your local government and police in your cleanup, and make sure they are aware of your plans. Let them know where you will be, and when you plan to be there. They will be able to assist you with parking, traffic and other safety concerns.
  • If you live in a community that does not have local police protection, contact your local State Police barracks for assistance.
  • Be aware of private property, and get permission from landowners before going on their land.
  • Organize into teams, and have team leaders become familiar with cleanup safety information.
  • Roadside litter can be dangerous. Do not open coolers, jugs, bottles and other sealed containers.
  • Make sure volunteers wear gloves, appropriate clothing, and safety gear.
  • Report any suspicious or dangerous items to police immediately.
  • Make sure children are not left unattended near highways or water.
  • For volunteer safety, please inform your volunteers prior to your cleanup what remanents of a meth lab or a "One Pot" meth lab might contain

Information on this page provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.