Frequently Asked Questions: Cleaning & Greening Your Neighborhood

Here are some of our most frequently asked questions related to what City and external resources are available to help you keep your neighborhood clean and green. Click a question to expand and view its answer.

I want to host a cleanup. Where do I start?

A great place to start is with Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB)’s Community Cleanup Resource Guide. This comprehensive guide is a one stop shop for everything you need to know about hosting a cleanup in your community. The guide includes information about procuring supplies, pre and post-event checklists, what City and nonprofit programs and resources are available to keep your block and neighborhood clean, trash and recycling tips, templates for planning your event, and much more!

What supplies will I need for my cleanup?

Have an estimate of how many volunteers to expect so that you have more than enough supplies.  Prepare a list of supplies needed for each project, assign pre-registered volunteers to each project, and make sure you have enough of each supply for every volunteer. Have some extras on hand, too!

  • Gloves
  • Rakes
  • Shovels
  • Brooms
  • Bags: Be sure to separate your trash from recycling.
  • Other Miscellaneous Supplies: Registration table, sign-in sheet, snacks and water, photo/liability waiver, scissors, tape, pens, markers
  • If the Event Will Also Involve Painting: Paint and can openers, brushes, paint stirrers, drop cloths, gloves, buckets for water, rags and water
  • If the Event Will Also Involve Weeding and Planting: Mulch (and a place to store it), plants, wheelbarrow, gloves, shovels, rakes

How can I obtain supplies for my cleanup?

IF YOU’RE A REGISTERED STREETS DEPARTMENT BLOCK CAPTAIN: Contact the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) about cleanup supplies available through their office.

NOT A BLOCK CAPTAIN? Want to learn more about what Block Captains do, and how to become one? Reach out at 215-685-3968 or visit the PMBC website. Want to know if you have a Block Captain? Search your address.

The City offers supplies through the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), a division of the Managing Director’s Office. You can request supplies here, though you will be responsible for picking up and delivering supplies back to the City’s warehouse during their operating hours. The following supplies are available through CLIP:

  • Leaf Rakes
  • Bow Rakes
  • Scoop Shovels
  • Digging Shovels
  • Sweep Brooms
  • Push Brooms
  • Sidewalk Edgers (manual)
  • Paper Trash Bags

You must pick up supplies the week before your cleanup and return them the week after. Note that CLIP will also help to coordinate trash pickup with the City after your event.

How do I recruit volunteers for my cleanup?

  • Tell neighbors, friends, local businesses, media outlets, and community-based organizations (such as Community Development Corporations, Business Improvement Districts, or civic/neighborhood associations).
  • Post on social media and SERVE Philadelphia.
  • Reach out to past volunteers.
  • Make contact with groups or individuals you know who may be looking for volunteer opportunities, including agencies and schools that work with individuals in need of community service hours.
  • Post flyers in busy public spaces in your neighborhood.

Find your local community-based organizations by visiting the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) member list , the Philadelphia City Planning Commission’s map of Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), Young Involved Philadelphia’s Civic Engagement Guide, or contacting Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (215-854-4000 or info@keepphiladelphiabeautiful.org).

How do I coordinate trash pickup from my cleanup event?

Coordinate a special pickup with the City (either through the Streets Department, Community Life Improvement Program, or the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee) or Keep Philadelphia Beautiful. If that is not possible, have a plan for storing trash collected until your regular collection day. Consider notifying your police district, specifically the Captain or Community Relations Officer.

How do I publicize my cleanup event/conduct media outreach?

Have a designated volunteer to take pictures, and post to social media as the event is taking place. Consider utilizing a hashtag for the day. Think about contacting the media. Does your community have a local newspaper or blog? Invite them to cover your event! Check out Keep Philadelphia Beautiful’s list of media outlets.

What personal safety concerns should I consider when planning my event?

  • Always consider vehicular traffic. Wear bright colors so oncoming traffic will see you.
  • Encourage courteous and positive behavior with other volunteers and local residents.
  • Cleaning bio-Hazard waste: Visit page 30 of KPB’s Community Cleanup Resource Guide for a list of tools and tips.

How can I reduce waste at my cleanup event?

Community beautification events can create a lot of unnecessary waste, too much of which ends up in landfills. Here are some tips for making your event a Zero Waste day.

  • Donate or keep your items. We know all too well that sometimes it can seem easier to throw used supplies away at the end of an event, rather than donate, clean, or store them. Have a plan before your event to make sure reuseable supplies like paint brushes don’t end up in a landfill.
  • Emphasize reusable items. As you’re gathering supplies for the big day, think through whether you can utilize reusable rather than disposable ones. Bring a water cooler instead of plastic water bottles, for instance.
  • Separate trash from recycling. Ask your volunteers to place trash and recycling in separate bags for proper disposal. If it’s possible, think through whether you’ll be collecting compostable materials and where you can drop those materials off to be composted.
  • Make sure to tell your volunteers that this is a Zero Waste event. It’s a great opportunity to educate and lead by example.

And if your event requires a City permit, you can now indicate you want your event to be Zero Waste and receive help from the City. Head to phlevents.org/applications.

Who do I contact for issues like graffiti, trash in vacant lots, or abandoned cars?

If in doubt, call 3-1-1, the City’s non-emergency hotline. You can dial 3-1-1 from a 215 or 267 area code, or 215-686-8686 from a non-Philadelphia area code. Or download the 3-1-1 mobile app on your smart phone where you can submit pictures directly to the City, search nearby service requests from fellow Philadelphians, and receive announcements and learn about opportunities throughout the city. Learn more at phila.gov/311.

How can I get involved with beautification efforts at parks and other green spaces in my neighborhood?

To participate in park and green space beautification efforts, explore what Park Friends groups exist in your neighborhood and learn about how you can get involved. Typical Park Friends group activities include park cleanup and beautification days, fundraising events, organizing recreational and educational programming, advocating for park improvements, publicizing important issues, resource management, and park advocacy. View the list of Philadelphia Park Friends groups or search your address to find your nearest Park Friends group.

Is there no Park Friends group in place for your local park or green space? Check out Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s Guide for How to Begin and Sustain Park Friends Groups to learn how you can start one.

I would like to request a street or yard tree for my block. Who do I contact?

SIDEYARD TREES: Free sideyard trees are available through the TreePhilly program! Visit treephilly.org to register for a free tree, find out the giveaway schedule, and learn how to take care of your new tree.

STREET TREES: Property owners, including both residential and commercial properties, can request free street trees from the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Street Tree Office. For updates on the status of your request, contact the Street Tree Team at 215-685-4362 or 215-685-4363.

Can I be rewarded or recognized for my efforts to clean my community?

Philacycle is an innovative program that allows residents to help out the community and to earn all sorts of great rewards when they do. From eliminating litter on our streets to learning more about sustainable living online to volunteering at a variety of local events, Philacycle rewards you for taking Zero Waste actions and engaging your friends, family, and neighbors to help make the positive impact we’d all like to see in our city. Learn more and register as a Philacycler at Philacycle.com.

Much of the information included on this page is from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful’s Community Cleanup Resource Guide. Be sure to check it out if you are considering hosting a community cleanup event for lots of great tips and resources.