a trash-strewn gutter

Self-Guided Cleanups

Protecting the coast and ocean can start right outside our doors. Help prevent plastic pollution and create a healthier neighborhood by engaging in a self-guided cleanup of your local streets, parks, waterways, and other areas. map of California showing its waterways

About 80 percent of trash found at the beach and entering the Pacific Ocean originates on land, from a wide variety of sources. It can blow or flow down storm drains, creeks, rivers, and other parts of the watershed 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.

Self-guided cleanups provide a flexible opportunity to be part of the statewide cleanup effort at the time and place that is most convenient for you. Your efforts will be counted as part of the statewide cleanup totals if you engage in the collective community science effort 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. Cleanup data have been used to support California's statewide plastic grocery 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. Before you start your cleanup, make sure your location services are turned on. (Often found in the "Privacy" or "Security" section in your phone's settings.) This will allow the app to use the phone's GPS system to ensure that your cleanup data is associated with the correct location.
  4. 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)
  5. Clean your neighborhood, park, or other local area. CleanSwell can be used anywhere and anytime. Even if you do not have cell service at your cleanup location, the app will automatically upload your cleanup data once you return to a service area. 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 during your self-guided cleanup

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. This should include bucket or trash bag, gloves, 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.

During your cleanup:

  • ALWAYS wear gloves and dispose of or wash them immediately after your cleanup.
  • 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!
  • Please do not enter unhoused encampments or remove items that may be part of an encampment.

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, or use hand sanitizer 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.