Whether you’re walking on the beach or at an outdoor music festival, you know firsthand how fast litter piles up in public spaces. But it isn’t just an eyesore. Not picking up your trash has consequences for the planet and its inhabitants, too.
Littering affects the environment in a number of ways. It releases chemicals as it degrades, which can enter the soil and freshwater sources, harming both humans and animals. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, animals also ingest and get tangled up in litter, which results in thousands of deaths every year.
USA Today says the most commonly littered items are cigarette butts, plastic food packaging, plastic cups, glass bottles, and aluminum cans. The good news is a lot of these items are actually recyclable. Surprisingly, that even includes cigarette butts, thanks to a program with TerraCycle.
Even in public places where there are signs and trash cans, people still seem to litter. Until that changes, the best thing we can do to help is clean it up. By spending a few hours picking up trash in your community, you could keep waste from harming the environment.
If you want to host a cleanup of your own, here’s exactly how to go about organizing it. Your neighborhood will be sparkling clean in no time.
How to Host a Community Cleanup
1. Pick a Location
Picking the perfect location is a crucial first step for your cleanup. It needs to be somewhere that’s easily accessible to the friends, family, and community members you invite to join you.
Maybe you avoid taking your dog to a particular park because there’s constantly garbage lying around. Or maybe your beach doesn’t have enough trash cans, so there’s always litter mixed up in the sand. Whichever spot you decide on, transforming an area in your own city will feel super satisfying.
2. Round Up Your Volunteers
A community cleanup can be as small or as big as you want it to be. Start by asking friends and family to get involved. Then, expand to classmates or colleagues and other members of your community.
You can also promote your cleanup on social media. Or, contact your local newspaper to see if they would be interested in sharing information about the event. If your community has any environmentalist groups, see if they would be interested in teaming up, too.
3. Get Supplies
You don’t need much for a community cleanup. Ask your volunteers to bring reusable gloves to limit waste. You’ll also need plenty of bags to collect the litter in. Get different colors—one for garbage, and one for recycling. That way, you won’t have to spend time separating the two at the end of the day.
4. Stay Positive
Cleanups aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Even when you’re with a group of go-getters who want to change the world, being around smelly garbage all day can definitely bring your spirits down. Keeping a positive attitude can help keep people smiling—especially during a cleanup that’s likely to last several hours.
5. Contact Waste Management
Now that you’ve successfully hosted your first cleanup, you’re probably looking at bags and bags and bags of garbage and recycling you’re not exactly sure what to do with. This is where your local waste management comes into play.
Waste management usually handles municipal trash and recycling programs: They pick up your garbage and recycling every week. Depending on the size of your cleanup, many municipal waste management services will pick up your cleanup haul for free. Just be sure to call them beforehand so you have a plan in place.
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