Frequently Asked Questions about the Virginia Waterways Cleanup

(part of the International Coastal Cleanup)

How can I participate in a cleanup event?

1. Cleanup events that are open to the public are listed on the this web site:

2. Contact the Site Captain for cleanup site directions and other information.

3. Show up on the cleanup day and bring some friends! Please wear sturdy sneakers or boots, plastic or rubber gloves, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and bring a bottle of water. Bug spray is a good idea too. Children under 18 must be supervised by an adult. Click here for safety information.

4. You will work in a team of 3 or 4, picking up litter and trash, while also filling out a brief Data Card about what you find. The data are very important to our understanding of the litter problem in Virginia.

5. Give your completed Data Card to the Site Captain, and feel GREAT that you were part of the solution to reduce litter and debris in Virginia's waterways and beaches.

What should I wear to a cleanup event?

Wear comfortable clothes that can get wet or dirty. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are recommended for stream-side and river cleanups. Wear sturdy shoes—no sandals or open-toed shoes. Wear gloves too. The rubber gloves used for washing dishes are good when you will be reaching in the water for litter. Cotton or leather workgloves are better for removing litter along the shoreline. A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and insect repellent are also good to wear.

Can I bring my children?

Supervised children over the age of eight are welcomed at most cleanup sites. Call the Site Captain just to make sure. All adult volunteers must sign a release, and children must have their parent or legal guardian sign a release for them. Note: for events on National Park Service property, a special NPS waiver form must be filled out for each child, and signed by their parent or legal guardian.

How have the clean ups across the state specifically helped water quality?

Our efforts to clean Virginia's waterways reflect the inter-relationship of the oceans and inland waterways. Tracing marine debris to its sources has shown us that 60% to 80% of the debris we find on our beaches actually originates further upstream—in rivers and streams. The effects of marine debris are some of the most devastating on our planet in terms of habitats and biological resources. There are economic stakes too—tourism and recreational spending are important to Virginia. Litter-free environments are appreciated by all citizens and visitors. This project educates Virginians about the harm litter, and lack of recycling, can cause. From 1988 through 2009, this project has removed more than 2 million pounds of debris from Virginia's waterways, and has involved 49,000+ volunteers.

What kind of data are collected on the clean up days and how are the data used?

Please ask your local site captain to show you one of our Marine Debris Data Cards. Volunteers fill out these cards as they pick up litter and debris. Click here for the "Top Ten" most frequently found types of litter found in Virginia during previous ICC events. The Ocean Conservancy, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service and others use our data too. Learn more about how the data are used.

What are some of the common pollutants or sources of pollution?

There are many types of water pollution—sediment, nutrients, invasive species, thermal, toxins, and others. CVW's International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia deals with one other type of pollution—solid waste that finds its way into our steams and rivers. Littering and illegal dumping is the cause of this kind of pollution. Learn more litter and its impacts.

Can SCUBA divers participate in an underwater cleanups?

Several underwater cleanups are conducted every year in Virginia through the work of our partner, Project AWARE in cooperation with Ocean Conservancy. Clean Virginia Waterways does not coordinate underwater ICC events, and we encourage you to work with directly with Project AWARE if you are a diver. With a unique view beneath the surface, divers see first-hand the effects of harmful debris. To find an underwater cleanup in your area, or to sign up an underwater cleanup, see the Project AWARE website:

Can my group signup to organize a cleanup site?

YES! Any group can signup and have their own cleanup event. We have churches, schools, business, and community groups signup every year. All we ask is that you get 10 or more volunteers together for your cleanup event. For a Sign Up Form that you can print out, Click here. Learn about being a Site Captain.

I am a teacher. How can a river or beach cleanup be integrated into our classwork?

Stream, river and beach cleanups can be an important part of a meaningful watershed educational experience. CVW has written "Virginia's Water Resources: A Tool for Teachers" which has several lesson plans that are built around a waterway cleanup. Students can learn about the impact of litter, math and classification skills, graphing and charting skills, and much more based on the data they collect during a cleanup. Your class, school or ecology club can have their own cleanup event in a waterway near your school. The data collected by students can also be sent to CVW for inclusion in our statewide data base. For a Sign Up Form that you can print out, see the link above.

What knowledge or experience do you hope volunteers participating in the ICC will gain?

Litter and aquatic debris are serious problems! All of the "Top Ten" items we find are from people—mostly from littering. Please look at the Dirty Dozen and Top Ten lists on this web site. The data card filled out by volunteers is organized based on the BEHAVIOR that has resulted in the littered items. By filling out the data card, volunteers not only help collect valuable information, but they also become more aware about the activities (for example, illegal dumping) that lead to trash in our waterways.

Who benefits from the International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia?

• All Virginians who depend on our Commonwealth's waterways for recreation or commercial purposes benefit from this program's short and long-term improvements in waters' cleanliness and safety.
• Wildlife and plants benefit as trash-free water results in improved habitats. Entanglement of animals in fishing line, and ingestion of plastic by wild animals will both be decreased.
• Volunteers involved with the cleanup will learn firsthand the impact litter has on our rivers. There is no better education about the harm that litter can cause than by bagging it for several hours.
• University students and future teachers benefit due to CVW's "win-win" affiliation with Longwood University; students are gaining practical skills in management, organizing, program development, and public relations while helping CVW and Virginia's environment. Future teachers at Longwood University are learning their important role in teaching their future students about recycling and litter issues.
• Virginia's Taxpayers benefit, as litter is collected through volunteer efforts, rather than tax dollars.
• Virginians who read newspapers will learn about litter issues in the many articles placed by CVW.

Who sponsors the International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia?

Click here for a list of sponsors and partners of CVW's International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia.

To learn about upcoming volunteer opportunities, send your email address to Clean Virginia Waterways.

Litter Prevention Page   Litter and Debris in our Waterways - Impacts and Data Page
Impacts of aquatic debris   Solutions
How Data from the ICC are used   The International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia

Return to ICC in Virginia page

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Compiled by Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, Farmville, VA 23909
434-395-2602 Fax: 434-395-2825 Email: