Visual Litter Survey (VLS) Student Curriculum: Guidelines

The NJ Jersey Clean Communities Council, in conjunction with the Rutgers/NJAES Office of Continuing Professional Education (OCPE) and Environmental Resources LLC (ERP), has developed a Visual Litter Survey (VLS) curriculum to train Clean Communities Coordinators to conduct litter surveys in their towns and/or counties.

To bring about and sustain a reduction in litter through education.

To teach students to conduct litter surveys, analyze litter data and, based on research, develop and implement a plan to reduce litter.


  • To teach students to work as a group to solve problems.
  • To teach students to use a systematic approach for problem solving.
  • To teach students to collect and analyze data.
  • To teach students to develop and implement solutions to problems.
  • To teach students to evaluate results.

What is a Visual Litter Survey?
A Visual Litter Survey is the collection of data on litter that a surveyor (an individual who conducts litter surveys) can see on the ground. For the purposes of this survey, litter is that can be seen on streets, beaches, waterfronts and/or other public places.

What is the purpose of a Visual Litter Survey?
A Visual Litter Survey may be conducted for the following reasons:

  1. To provide a baseline for determining the success of a litter abatement program (determining a baseline or amount of litter in sample sites presumes that follow-up litter surveys will be conducted on the same sites in 3- 5 years.)
  2. To identify sources of litter in a particular area, and to identify and implement solutions to the litter problem, and/or
  3. To identify specific products that may be causing litter problems and work to eliminate those products from the waste stream.

The VLS Student Curriculum: Here is how to participate!

  • Form a team of students who will participate in the VLS/Cleanup.
  • Designate a Team Leader.
  • Review the 2017-18 Litter Survey Report posted at
  • Discuss the report as a group.
  • Develop a plan of action the includes a mission statement, project goals and objectives, research (litter survey), analysis of data, implementation of a project or program developed to solve the litter problem, and project evaluation.
  • Conduct the VLS/Cleanup (any VLS must include a cleanup of the litter documented):
  • Register the VLS-Cleanup online at
  • Ensure that the Team follows all safety guidelines, signs waiver forms and attendance sheets.
  • Utilize one or two methods for documenting data (i.e., a VLS app or manual tally).
  • Submit data forms and photos documenting your cleanup to
  • Write and submit a one-page summary of the group’s experience.

Note: For the purposes of the VLS Curriculum, the Visual Litter Survey must include a cleanup of the litter documented.

NJ Student Learning Standards (NJ SLS) 2017-2018
NJ SLS for Science K -12 Earth and Human Activity Standards K-ESS3; 3-ESS3; 4-ESS3; 5-ESS3 Students who demonstrate understanding can: ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment. ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems ? Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help protect Earth’s resources and environments. (5-ESS3-1)

NJ SLS for 21st Century Life and Careers - Career Ready Practices (CRP) Standards CRP1.; CRP4.; CRP5.; CRP7.; CRP8.; CRP9.; CRP12. Students who demonstrate understanding can: Act as a responsible and contributing citizen and employee. CRP4. Communicate clearly and effectively and with reason. CRP5. Consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of decisions. CRP7. Employ valid and reliable research strategies. CRP8. Utilize critical thinking to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. CRP9. Model integrity, ethical leadership and effective management. CRP11. Use technology to enhance productivity. CRP12. Work productively in teams while using cultural global competence.

For more information visit or call 609-989-5900!