Volunteer Trash Cleanups: Pivotal or Pointless?

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Volunteers in last year’s Great American Cleanup program cleaned up more than 86 million pounds of litter. Photo: Gilroydispatch.com

Volunteers in last year’s Great American Cleanup program cleaned up more than 86 million pounds of litter. Photo: Gilroydispatch.com

Volunteers in last year’s Great American Cleanup program collected more than 86 million pounds of litter, according to the Keep America Beautiful, Inc. (KAB) organization. The Surfrider Foundation notes that its chapters hold hundreds of beach cleanups. And Grist reported in March that the work of more than 390,000 volunteers in last year’s International Coastal Cleanup was a drop in the ocean.

While the numbers of volunteer cleanups and amounts of trash collected is impressive, the volume of trash is immense. So, compared to the actual amount of trash in the U.S. alone, are these cleanups really solving any problems?

The answer to the question is both yes and no, according to two organizations that hold cleanups.

KAB, a national organization, and San Francisco Baykeeper, agree that cleanups can change how people approach the environment. On the other hand, the organizations say many other efforts need to be carried out in order to effectively reduce trash pollution. In other words, cleanups are a key piece in a complex puzzle.

Continue Reading: More Than Just Picking Up Litter

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Comments

  1. Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks for writing this article…I had never heard of/don’t recall these efforts being promoted as the Great American Clean-Up.

    “KAB also aims to alter citizens’ behavior through its cleanups. Wallace notes that prevention is the ultimate goal. The roles of schools and local governments are key. School systems educate students about litter prevention in the context of social studies and civics”

    Education is key…but getting the kids out of the classroom and into community clean-up projects may be more effective in changing future behavior and awareness.

    Green or Greedy?
    http://greenvsgreedy.blogspot.com/

  2. I used to participate in beach clean-ups when I was in high school. It was a really great way to volunteer, because you get exercise, lots of fresh air and there were always picnics on the beach afterward. Plus, picking up litter isn’t a big deal if you aren’t wearing an orange vest.

  3. I’m all for litter cleanups, but what bothers me is that most of the trash on the sides of highways is plastic bottles. They all get thrown into a trashbag and taken off. I’m willing to bet most local municipalities don’t even recycle the litter bottles

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