On the third Saturday of September, organizations around the country celebrate National CleanUp Day, with efforts aimed at reducing litter and cleaning up their local communities, parks, trails, beaches, and open spaces.
Since 2017, National CleanUp Day has encouraged Americans to keep the outdoors clean and volunteer their time to collect trash and beautify their neighborhoods and green spaces. Staged in conjunction with World CleanUp Day, the event brings together almost 2 million volunteers in the U.S. alone. Events happen throughout September, including National Public Lands Day. After all, being a good citizen includes keeping our communities clean!
National Cleanup Day timeline
Parkesine, a cellulose-derived material, is introduced at the Great International Exhibition in London
Earl Silas Tupper invented Tupperware, revolutionizing kitchen storage and sales through the innovative marketing system that used housewives to sell the products to their friends.
The well-known Keep America Beautiful anti-littering campaign is launched — by a consortium of giants in the packaging industry! Environmental activists criticize the campaign for focusing attention on individual consumer actions and diverting blame from the corporations that invented and marketed disposable packaging.
National CleanUp Day is launched, growing quickly to include partner organizations like Earth Day, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and the National Parks Conservation Association.
National Cleanup Day - Survey Results
Launched in 2017 by Steve Jewett and Bill Willoughby, the National CleanUp Day campaign poses a simple question. “What would the world be like if everyone picked up at least one piece of litter?” On the third Saturday of September, they encourage everyone to do just that. By encouraging public participation in clean-up events, the organization promotes civic responsibility and strengthens connections between neighbors.
Cleanup events are held in all 50 states and U.S. territories, ranging from local cleanups with groups of neighbors to major sponsored events with thousands of attendees. Anyone can start an event and submit it to the national website.
The invention of plastics and the growth of fast food and disposable, one-time-use packaging has increased the litter problem at an alarming rate. Today, an estimated 14 billion pounds of trash makes its way into the world’s oceans every year. With many plastics taking hundreds of years to degrade, these foreign objects now outnumber sea creatures like phytoplankton and zooplankton.
National CleanUp Day aims to promote a clean outdoor environment for everyone, raise awareness about the problems with littering, and mobilize resources for beautifying and improving public spaces. The campaign is enthusiastically adopted by hundreds of community-based organizations and volunteer groups that do the grassroots work of putting together events, recruiting volunteers, and getting the word out to the public.
The organization believes that our quality of life improves when we have access to clean, safe outdoor spaces. Getting involved in cleaning up your community and open spaces can help everyone build a cleaner, greener, healthier world.
National Cleanup Day FAQs
Why is trash a problem?
When not disposed of properly, trash can injure or kill wildlife, leach chemicals and toxins into groundwater, pollute waterways, and lead to increased methane emissions.
How can I help keep the environment clean?
National CleanUp Day goes beyond one Saturday in September. Check out their website to find local organizations that work on litter prevention and cleanup year-round.
How can I reduce my waste?
The best way to reduce the amount of trash in our environment and oceans is to produce less of it. By switching to reusable containers, items with less packaging and using second-hand products when possible, you’re doing your part to keep the earth free of harmful plastics, toxins, and chemicals.
How to Celebrate National CleanUp Day
Join a cleanup event
The National CleanUp Day website lists hundreds of events planned around the country. Find one near you and participate.
Start your own event
If you can’t find a cleanup event in your community, get together with some friends and plan your own! Submit it to the website so your neighbors can find you.
Reduce the waste in your life
Keeping our communities free of litter takes more than just cleaning it up. Try to produce less trash in the first place by reducing your consumption and switching to reusable packaging where possible.
Alarming Facts About Litte
The elephant in the ocean
Marine litter is a whale of a problem — there's as much as 150 million tons of plastic in our oceans, which is equivalent to 25 million elephants! Marine animals ingest or get caught in plastics and other trash, leading to injury and death.
Keep your butts to yourself
We throw away more than 4,500 billion cigarette butts each year and although they may seem small and harmless, cigarette butts contain non-biodegradable plastics and toxins that damage the environment.
Fast food is a major culprit
Fast food uses disposable packaging aimed at people in a rush, so it makes sense that fast food eaters are some of the worst offenders when it comes to litter.
NASA was once fined for littering
When pieces of their Skylab space station fell to earth in 1979, Australian officials gave NASA a $400 fine for littering. No one gets away with littering, even from space!
Spit your gum in the trash
Most commercial chewing gum contains synthetic plastics that won't degrade when disposed of. Next to cigarette butts, chewing gum is the most common form of litter in cities.
Why We Love National CleanUp Day
It reminds us to reduce, reuse, recycle
Picking up trash is important — and so is eliminating that trash in the first place. Look around and see if you can replace some of your single-use packages with reusable containers so you throw away less.
It brings us together with our neighbors
National CleanUp Day is a great way to meet your neighbors and work together to improve your community. You’ll make your neighborhood more beautiful and make new friends at the same time.
It lets us explore the outdoors
Cleaning up a local park or beach is a great way to spend time outside and explore the outdoors while taking care of the environment.
National Cleanup Day dates