a trash-strewn gutter

Neighborhood Cleanups

Protecting the coast and ocean starts outside our doors. Help prevent plastic pollution, and create a healthier neighborhood, by cleaning up streets, parks, waterways, and other local areas. map of California showing its waterways

About 80 percent of trash found at the beach comes from inland sources, from ill-fitting garbage can lids, littering, and more. It can then blow down the watershed into storm drains, creeks, and rivers, and end up at the beach. When winter storms come, this trash is swept out to the ocean, becoming marine debris. Cleaning your neighborhood, even if it's far inland, stops trash where it starts before it can pollute the coast and ocean.

Be a community scientist by logging all of the trash that you find with the data collection app Cleanswell (available free in your app store) or on a printed paper data card. The amount and type of trash collected is used to inform legislation surrounding plastic pollution and to support policies already in place. These numbers have been used to support California's plastic bag ban, Styrofoam food packaging bans in over 80 cities, and new regulations to keep trash out of stormwater systems. To learn more, watch this video from the 2020 California Coastal Cleanup about the importance of data collection.

Thank you for making a difference for your community and the ocean! Show us your cleanup by posting photos on social media using the hashtag #NeighborhoodCleanup. You can also email coast4u@coastal.ca.gov to tell us about your experience and share photos.

Read on for instructions on using the Cleanswell app and tips for staying safe.


To collect data using Cleanswell, follow the steps below

  1. Download app, available for iOS and Android.
  2. Create an account. Note: you will need WiFi or data in order to do this. (View screenshot)
  3. Click "Start cleanup." (View screenshot.) You will be asked for the date, number of people, group name, and type of cleanup (land or water). Enter "CCC Local" under group name, and add a custom name afterwards if you would like to track yourself or your team's data (e.g. CCC Local - Troop 260). Unless you are on a boat or other watercraft, you should choose "land." (View screenshot)
  4. a woman holding a full trash bag gives a thumbs up
  5. Clean your neighborhood, park, or other local area. Cleanswell can be used anywhere and anytime. Click on each icon once to add it to your trash count. (View screenshot.) If you are cleaning with a group, we recommend designating one person to collect data. If you add an item by accident, don't worry! You can correct that by switching to "Remove Item" at the bottom of the screen. When finished, click "Done collecting." (View screenshot)
  6. Confirm details of your cleanup, then click "Submit data." (View screenshot.) Optional: click "Share" to share your cleanup results on social media. (View screenshot)
  7. Optional: go to coastalcleanupdata.org to track your cleanup. Click "View reports." Enter the date(s) of your cleanup(s). Enter your group name, then view your team's total miles, pounds, dates, and number of cleanups.

To collect data using a paper data card, follow the steps below

  1. Download a paper data card in English or Spanish. Fill out the details of your cleanup.
  2. Clean your neighborhood, park, or other local area. Tally the trash that you find on the card.
  3. When finished, mail your completed card to the address listed on the card.

To protect your health and slow the spread of the coronavirus

Please follow the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, the Coastal Commission recommends the following practices for cleaning up litter and other debris:


  • If you are sick in any way, DO NOT go out for a cleanup.
  • Assemble your cleanup gear, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This should include bucket or trash bag, gloves, face mask, a trash grabber or tongs (if available), sun protection, and make sure to wear close-toed shoes to protect against sharp objects.
  • Download the free Clean Swell app to keep track of what you pick up and how many people participated with you. If you do not have a device capable of using the app, you can download a data card.
  • Please check the air quality in your area and if it is unhealthy, please do not go out for a cleanup.
  • Watch a video by Explore Ecology about how to prepare for your cleanup.

During your cleanup:

  • Maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from everyone you encounter, even if you are wearing a mask.
  • ALWAYS wear gloves and dispose of or wash them immediately after your cleanup.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Do not pick up sharp objects, especially syringes!
  • Don't pick up anything too heavy or anything that you will not be able to fit into your home debris bin.
  • In parks and natural areas, follow all posted signage, stay on trails, and limit activities to areas open to the public.
  • If you clean up a local beach or waterway, be mindful of the conditions (such as high tide, sneaker wave warnings, etc.), and be careful near the water's edge.
  • Keep a safe distance from all wildlife!
  • Do not pick up or disturb natural objects, such as leaves, nests, or eggs.
  • Avoid over-exertion, sunburn, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. When in doubt, come in early!
  • Unfortunately, you may find used gloves, masks, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) among litter. DO NOT PICK UP ANY PPE without a grabber.

After your cleanup:

  • Dispose of trash in your home trash and recycle bins.
  • Wash or dispose of gloves immediately after your cleanup. To properly remove disposable gloves, grab the glove opening near your wrist and pull towards your fingers, then turn the glove inside out before disposing.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly as soon as possible, and use hand sanitizer in the meantime if soap and water are unavailable.

By participating in a cleanup you understand and agree that neither the State of California or California Coastal Commission may be held liable or responsible in any way for any injury, death, or other damages to you or your family, heirs, or assigns that may occur as a result of your participation, or as a result of product liability or the negligence, whether passive or active, of any party in connection with the cleanups.