In Community Events, Education and Learning, Funding, Public Outreach, River and Water Organizations, Water Pollution, Water Quality

“Masks On, Litter Gone”: Innovating Through Corporate Support

As we near the fall and continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all adjusted to new ways of living and working. Creativity in programming has come to the forefront and new, exciting initiatives are popping up all over the network and the world. At River Network, we knew there had to be a way to continue engaging communities in caring for their rivers even though we couldn’t host traditional group river cleanups.

Thanks to the support of the Ball Foundation, known for their infinitely recyclable aluminum packaging, we were awarded the opportunity to explore creative ways to accomplish cleanups. With their support, we utilized a mobile application called Litterati, which helps users track how much litter they pick up and creates competition through virtual challenges. We converted our in-person cleanups and instead hosted virtual cleanup campaigns in three different cities: Findlay, OH, Ft. Atkinson, WI, and Phoenix, AZ. 

Our virtual campaign, “Masks on Litter Gone,” encouraged community members to pick up litter while they were outside enjoying a walk or recreating. Participants could compete to top the leaderboard and weekly winners each received a prize. In addition to participating on the app, users were also encouraged to post photos on social media using the hashtags #ChooseCans and #BallLitterHaul.

We set a goal to pick up 10,000 pieces of litter and recyclables and we surpassed that, removing 10,563 pieces across the globe, including 8,811 pieces of recyclable material and 414 pieces of infinitely recyclable aluminum. We had participants in all of our local challenge cities, but also across the US and the globe in places such as England and New Zealand. Our local campaign in Phoenix was a particularly huge success, more than doubling their local goal of 2,500 pieces of litter, ending up with 6,172 pieces collected! Our local partner, Arizona State University, attributed this success to the great partnerships they formed in their region, who helped advertise the campaign and spread the word throughout the greater Phoenix area. Cecilia Rivera, Assistant Director at University City Exchange and Rio Reimagined, says, “The use of social media was relatively new for us and it was incredibly effective. We had thousands of engagements the first day the event was posted on Facebook, so there was significant outreach to people who had perhaps never heard of the initiative or the partners before.”

Click here to meet Cecilia and learn more about her work with Rio Reimagined.

A volunteer shows off litter collected during the virtual campaign.

Litterati is a great tool to virtually engage with your community and local partners during a time when we can’t be together in person. It allows organizations to continue their work in cleaning-up riverbanks and shorelines while hosting a fun and friendly competition that can be done on an individual’s own time. Are you interested in more creative ways to manage litter in your community? Check out our new resource, Waste in our Waters: a Community Toolkit for Aquatic Litter Removal, or reach out to me at with any questions.

We are so grateful to our partners, The Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, The Rock River Coalition, The Rock River Trails Initiative, and Arizona State University, who helped us accomplish this outstanding virtual campaign; and we are thankful to the Ball Foundation for making this initiative possible!

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