The Virginia Waterways Cleanup (part of the International Coastal Cleanup)

Site Captains are important leaders -- they make it possible for hundreds of others to participate and become hands-on stewards of our local streams, rivers and beaches. Please consider becoming a Site Captain, and organizing a cleanup event in your community! Call Clean Virginia Waterways at 434-395-2602 if you have any questions, or if you are ready to sign up! Or send us an email at or

WHEN: The Virginia Waterways Cleanup is held annually between September 1 and October 31. You and your group of volunteers can pick any date that works for you.

  SAFETY FIRST! Click here for safety information.

Duties of a Site Captain (More details are below):

1. Pick any stream, beach or river in your neighborhood or nearby park that needs a cleanup. Storm drains can also be the focus of a cleanup event.
2. Help promote the cleanup with co-workers, park visitors, friends, students, neighbors, church and local businesses. Please ask your local newspaper and radio stations to run a notice of the event.
3. Show up early on your cleanup day to hand out trash bags, pencils, and Data Cards to volunteers. Show the volunteers how to fill out the Data Cards, and review the safety rules.
4. Collect the Data Cards from volunteers, thank your volunteers, and mail the Data Cards to CVW.

Support you will get from Clean Virginia Waterways:
Site Captains receive trash bags, data cards, pencils, posters, brochures & instructions on organizing a successful cleanup. Site Captains also receive a T-shirt. In addition to statewide press releases, CVW will send special press releases to your local newspapers and radio stations to help promote your cleanup event. CVW will also put your cleanup event on its web site to help recruit volunteers.

Publicity for your cleanup:
Some Site Captains organize cleanups that are just for a certain club, school, or group of co-workers. But if your cleanup event is open to the public, it is important to promote the event so you will get volunteers. Clean Virginia Waterways will promote your cleanup in news releases, radio public service announcements, and on the CVW website. The Ocean Conservancy also promotes the International Coastal Cleanup in major newspapers, magazines, and on TV and radio stations around the world. Volunteers can call 1-800-262-BEACH to learn about cleanup coordinators in their state or go to to find cleanup events near their homes. In addition, we ask that you contact a few radio stations and ask them to announce your cleanup event. You will also receive from CVW a press release that you can customize for your local newspaper. We have learned that local newspapers and radio stations respond best to requests from local citizens.

1) Select a cleanup area/site along a river, beach or any other body of water. If in a park, contact the park's ranger and work with him or her to coordinate the cleanup. Call Clean Virginia Waterways, or send us an email to register your cleanup as part of the Virginia Waterways Cleanup.

2) Find out about parking and bathroom facilities for your volunteers. Where will the filled trash bags be placed? In parks, they are usually placed near trashcans. If no trashcans are present, someone needs to take the bags to a landfill. Is there is a picnic area where your team can have a post-cleanup gathering?

3) Get volunteers! Sources of volunteers include: park visitors, friends, neighbors, churches, co-workers, club/association members, local schools, boy or girl scout troops, flyers at libraries, etc. In some areas, volunteers may learn about your Cleanup Site from local newspapers and TV/radio.

4) Let your volunteers know where to assemble, and how to dress in order to avoid injury and overexposure to the sun. They should wear sturdy sneakers or boots, gloves, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and BRING WATER. Please let volunteers know that their participation in the cleanup for any length of time is greatly appreciated!

5) You will receive trash bags, Data Cards, pencils, promotional posters, and sign-up forms from Clean Virginia Waterways. Site Captains will also receive a T-Shirt. Give CVW an estimate of how many volunteers you are expecting at your site so we can send the correct amount of supplies. We'll also need your T-shirt size!

Please get to your clean-up site ONE HOUR before the announced start time. Display signs (if deemed necessary) to help volunteers find your "Sign-in Area". Get your supplies ready to hand out to volunteers.

Have with you the supplies you got from CVW:

Trash Bags
Data Cards and Pencils
Volunteer Sign-in Forms (be sure to get all volunteers' names, addresses, phone, and age if under 18)
...and be sure to wear your Site Captain T-Shirt!

Other supplies to have:

First Aid Kit, cell phone
Bug Spray, sunscreen
Bucket or coffee can for dangerous, sharp trash items
Rakes and scissors (optional--but helpful!)
Cooler with sodas/water for team members
Scale to weigh trash (usually standard household kind)
Cameras to take pictures of your team and of any interesting trash you find.
(Please send some of your photos to Clean Virginia Waterways for use in reports.)

Instruct your Volunteers on:

1. Filling out the Data Cards
The data collected on these cards are crucial to the success of this International effort. PLEASE stress the following with your volunteers:

a. Use tick marks ( //// ) to show how many of each item is picked up. Please do not just put a number or words like "many!"
b. Unusual items should be described on the cards. Example: "found one gorilla suit and two mobile phones."

2. REVIEW SAFETY REMINDERS!! (Listed on the Data Card)
ONLY adults should pick up dangerous or sharp trash items! Click here for more SAFETY INFORMATION.

Break volunteers into groups of two, three or four to cleanup and record data. Give one Data Card and one pencil to each group. Send them in different directions. The first few groups of volunteers should only pick up clean, recyclable cans and bottles. These should be bagged separately and then recycled. Each volunteer should take one or two trash bags. Tell volunteers where they should place the trash bags when they are full. At no time should a volunteer be working alone -- they should always be with other volunteers.

When the cleanup is done, estimate the weight of the bags and other debris. Collect all Data Cards and thank your volunteers! Some cleanup events end with a short presentation from a naturalist, biologist, park ranger, teacher or other expert who can help the volunteers understand how their efforts will help the local wildlife and habitat.

What to do with dead animals:

Record them on data cards and leave them where found. List cause of death if it is from entanglement in litter or debris. Try to identify the animal by species (ex: "Black-Backed Gull" rather than "Bird"). If possible, please take photos and send these to Clean Virginia Waterways.

What to do with injured animals:

If found, leave them where they are and notify your local Animal Control office. Or, if your cleanup is in a park, contact the park ranger.

1. Within three days of the cleanup, mail all your completed Data Cards to Clean Virginia Waterways. Use the pre-addressed envelope that will be provided to you from CVW. Also, please fill out the "Captains Report Form" and "Summary Card" and mail them with your Data Cards.

2. If you have photos, please send them within a month to CVW. Digital photos are preferred.

3. Please send a list with addresses/phone numbers of your volunteers (for next year). If anyone showed interest in being a Site Captain for next year, let us know!!

To sign up to be a Site Captain...

...simply call Clean Virginia Waterways (434-395-2602) or send an email to CVW with your name, address, phone number, the site that your group will be cleaning, the cleanup date, and an estimate of how many volunteers you hope to have. . Please talk to your friends and family across Virginia. Encourage them to volunteer at a cleanup event, or to serve as Site Captain. Thank you for helping make Virginia's Waterways cleaner for everyone!

About Clean Virginia Waterways

Clean Virginia Waterways (CVW) is a statewide, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving the cleanliness and quality of Virginia's waterways by promoting citizen stewardship. CVW is funded by grants from foundations, businesses, and various government grants. Substantial additional support is provided by in-kind donations from sponsors, and from Longwood University located in Farmville, the heart of Virginia. Donations to support CVW are accepted with gratitude, and are tax-deductible!

Return to CVW's Virginia Waterways Cleanup page

Return to Clean Virginia Waterways' Home Page

Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, Farmville, VA 23909
434-395-2602 Fax: 434-395-2978 Email: