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Fighting for Trash Free Seas®

Ending the flow of trash at the source

During the Cleanup

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

Be Safe!

During the COVID-19 pandemic please take the follow precautions for health and safety:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask or face covering when around others.
  • Volunteers should wear protective gloves during a cleanup and avoid touching their face, whether COVID-19 is a threat in the community or not. Work or gardening gloves that can be washed and reused are a great option, but at the very least, volunteers should wear rubber gloves to protect against germs and sharp or abrasive trash items.
  • Maintain distance between yourself and other people outside of your home. Stay at least six feet or two meters (about two arms’ length) from other people.
  • While studies show that the main transmission of COVID-19 is from person-to-person, the virus can remain viable on surfaces of a number of material types for hours to days. Volunteers should be mindful and cautious when picking up trash items and make sure trash is secured in a bag or other cleanup receptacles to limit contact.
  • As always, volunteers should never pick up any trash items that they do not feel comfortable touching. These might include, but are not limited to, glass, needles, nails and other sharp objects or gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). These items can be pointed out to a supervising adult or cleanup leader or simply left where they are found.
  • Unless a biohazard or medical waste container is available, volunteers should not collect needles or other waste that looks to be medical waste. Needles should never be placed in a normal trash bag as they can easily poke through plastic film and harm volunteers.
  • Have your “designated data recorder” ready. All they need to do is follow along with your group at a safe distance and log trash items as they are found in the Clean Swell® app. Others in your group who are collecting can call out items as they are found, such as “Three plastic bottle caps” or “One beverage can,” and the recorder can tap these items on the app to keep tally.

Set Up

Arrive early to set up, post signs and label your trash drop-off site. At your check-in station, ensure you have pens, pencils and sign-in sheets ready for your volunteers.

What to Tell Volunteers

Emphasize the importance of data collection. Make sure everyone has the Clean Swell® app downloaded so they can keep track of the items they are collecting. You can find a simple How-To-Use Clean Swell® poster here.

The valuable data they collect is used to create a snapshot of the global ocean trash problem and influence long-term solutions. Provide volunteers with a group name to be entered on each user’s collection screen—this makes it easy to look up your group totals later. With both data cards and Clean Swell® (available in multiple languages), make data collection easier by suggesting that volunteers work in small teams that can share one data card. Designating a data recorder for each group is recommended. It is easier to collect data as items are picked up, rather than sorting and tallying everything after you clean.

Instruct volunteers on what to do if they encounter any hazardous items, such as sharp objects or dead, entangled or injured animals. Remind them of any local safety hazards, such as power lines or poison ivy.

Establish a point person to stay at the check-in station in case of health emergencies or any late arrivals.

Tell volunteers what to do with the filled bags of trash and set a meeting time for the end of the cleanup so that everyone returns at the same time. Kids should always have adult supervision.

Document the Cleanup

Take before and after photos of the cleanup site as well as shots of your volunteers in action and a final group picture with all of the trash collected. Clean Swell® has a photo icon in the top right-hand corner that allows volunteers to take photos during their cleanup which are automatically submitted with their data!

If you have a scale with a hook, use it to weigh the trash bags. If you don’t have a scale, you can use a standard conversion of 15 pounds per trash bag to estimate the overall weight of your collected trash.

As the volunteers finish, remind them to review the information they entered into Clean Swell®, such as number of participants and then make sure they submit. Collect all completed data cards and email them to Ocean Conservancy at [email protected].

Ensure all trash is left in the designated drop-off location and that no materials are left behind as you leave the cleanup location.


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