13 Frequently Asked Questions for Organizing an Effective Community Waste Cleanup

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Clean Up Kenya receives numerous requests for information from individuals, community groups and corporate organizations related to planning a community waste cleanup. Below is a list of thirteen frequently asked questions. These questions are included in our step by step Ten Point Guide for Organizing Effective Clean-up Projects which is available on request for communities and organizations interested in planning their next community cleanup.

1. Why these community clean-ups? Shouldn’t the local authorities be responsible for clean communities?

According to the Constitution of Kenya, sanitation is a fundamental right and the government is the duty bearer for the realization of this right. Communities and organizations however have a role to play and can support the efforts of the government to enable a safe and clean environment. They can do this by restraining from littering and engaging in illegal dumping, and by organizing and participating in local clean-ups. 

2. Who funds community clean-up projects?

Community clean-ups should as much as possible be funded by the local community where these are held. This helps breed community ownership and civic pride in clean neighborhoods. Where external help is needed this should be kept to a minimum and should only be a catalyst for more community involvement in future. Larger community clean-up projects such as river clean-ups and large illegal dumpsite closures which require greater funding and technical expertise should be recommended to the relevant government bodies and established Non Governmental Organizations. Big and small businesses and organizations are however advised to support community efforts as part of their corporate social responsibility.

3. How long should the planning of a cleanup project take?

Clean-up planning committees should allow enough time to do all that is needed to have an effective project. Naturally when they start they may take longer in planning but as these events become more regular, the planning time reduces. Regardless, every clean-up should be approached as an ’emergency’ undertaking.

4. Why clean anyway when people will still litter and dump in future? Why clean up after others?

Clean-ups can be an effective way of awareness creation on issues around waste management. The more a person comes to a clean-up the more they are likely to adopt sustainable behaviors such as using a litter bin or using a refillable water bottle. It may be wise to also have some placards carried by some volunteers asking passersby not to litter or dump as the clean-up goes on.

Volunteers with placards before a community cleanup organized by Clean Up Kenya. Source: Clean Up Kenya

5. Does Clean Up Kenya fund local community cleanups?

We encourage communities to find local funding opportunities for their projects to breed community ownership. In some cases, Clean Up Kenya collaborates with communities on some projects. We are however interested in conducting campaigns where several cleanups are done as part of one project in several locations with hundreds of volunteers and https://cleanupkenya.org/galleries/organizations participating.

6. How big should the community cleanup be?

This question is often asked in terms of geography and population. We suggest smaller communities. In large cities, this can cover only a small geographical area while in other areas this can be a wider area. We recommend that no more than one kilometer total straight line walking distance for a volunteer, and no more than 200 volunteers for effective involvement for one single cleanup.

7. How long should a community clean-up event take?

We recommend that voluntary community clean-ups take a maximum of 2 hour and never to exceed 3 hours. Longer events are discouraged and planning teams should select event locations with this in mind. If the locations are badly off it is better to have more volunteers participate than work for more hours. Longer projects tend to attract more expenses from the planners such as having to feed volunteers especially when children are involved.

8. Should we incorporate other activities as part of the community cleanup?

Depends on what kind of activities and how effective the planning teams are and whether the activities complement the clean-up. Some activities to consider may include learning events where participants are taught about conservation.

9. Should we plan to feed the volunteers?

We discourage the offering of incentives (such as food and money) to volunteers since this works against the spirit of volunteerism. Citizens and communities are to be encouraged to show their civic pride in safe and clean neighborhoods by willfully participating in these events. However, in some situations, the planners may want to celebrate after the event with some food. Where this is planned, the organizers should use local resources or look for a local business to fund the food. We recommend simple snacks for this. Since these are public events food items should come in primary packaging from manufacturers such as bread or cakes, packaged milk and sodas. We discourage having meals prepared.  

10. Are volunteers paid to participate in community cleanups?

The long and short answer is NO!

11. Is bottled water provided to volunteers?

Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own water in refillable water bottles to avoid adding to the waste footprint. However, organizers may plan to provide water for volunteers who are unable to bring their own water.

12. What should we do with the collected trash?

In the beginning, the collected trash will most likely be collected by the local authority and taken to a local dumpsite if you request their help. But as the community becomes more experienced in doing clean-ups, they may consider sorting the trash with any recoverable items that can be recycled being handed to local recyclers. Note that it is ILLEGAL to not properly dispose of collected trash after a community cleanup. If for some reason the local authority is not able to collect the trash, contact a licensed private collector to request their help. Sometimes they may ask to be paid for their service. Under no circumstances should collected waste be burned in the open air on the site.

13. Do we need permits to conduct a community cleanup?

If you work closely with your local authorities, you may not need any permits to conduct a cleanup. You may however need to apply for waivers for fees for such licenses related to marketing your cleanup such as outdoor advertising, among others. Your local authorities will advise you on this.

Ten Point Guide for Organizing Effective Clean-up Projects

Get in touch with us for this full guide on how to plan your next community cleanup effectively. We also help corporate organizations plan and implement their Corporate Social Responsibility community waste actions at a fee.

ABOUT CLEAN UP KENYA

Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the de-facto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilizing for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. These cleanups are meant to increase visibility on the problem of waste and it is therefore common to see our volunteers in bibs with one message, ‘Clean Up Kenya’. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, green-washing NGOs, and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.