About the National River Cleanup®

Millions of tons of trash end up in our nation’s rivers and streams every year from litter on the ground and illegal dump sites. Trash is more than just an eyesore; it can contaminate your drinking water and threaten the lives of all who depend on it. American Rivers hosts the National River Cleanup® year round to help tens of thousands of volunteers across the country remove this trash and cleanup their local waterways.

National River Cleanup provides free trash bags, volunteer engagement, and technical support to everyone who registers their cleanup and in return cleanup organizers submit their cleanup data and liability waivers back to American Rivers to track our progress throughout the country.

River cleanups provide a fantastic way to connect citizens to their local river or stream. Cleanups are an excellent way to educate volunteers on other problems your river is facing. Whether it be run-off, sewage overflow, gas drilling, or invasive species, your captive audience will want to know “what else they can do” after the cleanup is over. This activity is also a great way to meet your neighbors and get some fresh air!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I register a cleanup?

It’s easy! Click here to be taken to the easy online registration form.  Remember, register your cleanup at least four weeks in advance to receive free trash bags!  Also, please have a working phone number and street address ready – no P.O. Boxes please.

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I’ve found a local cleanup nearby. How do I get involved?
Once you’ve found a cleanup, use your mouse to click on the cleanup’s Google map “pin.”  The organizer’s contact information will appear. Please contact the organizer directly if you’d like to participate in their event. If there isn’t contact information provided, it is a private event.

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Does it cost anything to participate in a river cleanup?
No. Volunteering for a cleanup is free. Donations to American Rivers and to the organization coordinating the cleanup are appreciated and will help cover the cost of trash bags and other materials for the program.

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I’ve never organized a cleanup before, what does it involve?
The Organizer’s page
 provides detailed information on how to prepare, promote and execute your river cleanup. If you have further questions, contact us at NRC@A[email protected] or toll free at (202)-347-7550.

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I’ve never participated in a river cleanup before. Do I need to have any experience?
No experience necessary just a willingness and a desire to help improve your community’s rivers. Cleanup organizers should provide volunteers with information on safety and protocol on the day of the cleanup. Each individual river cleanup participant is responsible for his or her own safety and should act within their own personal physical abilities and exercise due caution when participating in river cleanups.

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As a volunteer, what should I wear and bring to a river cleanup?
River cleanups can be messy and require hard work. Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or even tattered. Work boots and work gloves are strongly recommended and if you are going to be working in the water dress appropriately. Long sleeve shirts and long pants are recommended despite the weather, for the protection they provide against the sun, poisonous or thorny plants and biting insects. Wearing a hat and eye protection is also recommended. It’s important to keep hydrated. Bring plenty of water and also a snack to keep your energy up.

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Can my kids participate?
Absolutely. River cleanups are a fun learning experience for kids. Just make sure they understand the importance of putting safety first. The safety of river cleanup participants under the age of 18 is the responsibility of parents or legal guardians.

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I’m already organizing a different river cleanup. What if I don’t have the time or resources to plan another?
No problem, simply register your existing cleanup with National River Cleanup. Many events registered with us are part of ongoing cleanups organized under local or statewide programs. While we encourage new river cleanups, we also want to incorporate any long-standing cleanups that are coordinated through other programs. If you are participating in another cleanup, encourage the organizer to register that event as part of National River Cleanup, as well.

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Why should I register my existing cleanup with National River Cleanup?
National River Cleanup is an opportunity to highlight your cleanup along with hundreds of others taking place across the country. Your cleanup will get free publicity on our site and reach a wider audience of potential volunteers. Plus you can take advantage of innovative and easy-to-use tools to organize and recruit volunteers, in addition to free trash bags. National River Cleanup is an national program under which many long-running, separately-coordinated cleanups occur. Your trash collection statistics will be included in a nationwide tally demonstrating the problem of litter in our rivers, and highlighting the efforts of the organizers and volunteers pitching in to clean it up.

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How do I report trash stats?
After your cleanup, please return to our website and fill out the National River Cleanup Results Survey.

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Why must volunteers sign American Rivers’ Liability Waiver and return it?
American Rivers’ mission is to protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets vital to our health, safety and quality of life. As part of this mission, we act as a clearinghouse for information on how you can participate in river cleanups, a resource through which you can improve the quality of your community’s environment, and a guide by which you can gauge your safety precautions. We are not, however, the organizer or promoter of the river cleanups themselves. Each volunteer is responsible for his or her own safety at the cleanups, and must maintain a safe environment at all times. We ask that you sign this Liability Waiver as an acknowledgement of your responsibility, and as a means by which we may continue assisting as many people as possible in creating and maintaining safe, clean waterways.  We ask that you return the Liability Waiver to American Rivers after your cleanup for our legal records. You can return it multiple ways: fax, mail, or email (see the top of the Waiver).

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