Introduction: Litter Cleanup Kit

I went for a walk yesterday, and was saddened by the amount of litter that I saw in my neighborhood. I decided to help make it a nicer place by picking up the trash. No, I didn’t start plogging. The density of trash was a bit too high to make that practical. I decided to create a litter cleanup kit to make the process faster and more efficient, with less time spent bending and handling the litter.

The kit consists of a wooden stick with a steel point, for stabbing and lifting litter, and a bucket with a trash bag liner and a flap to grab the litter off of the stick and retain small items that might blow out of an open bucket.

This was quite easy to make from things that I had on hand.

What you’ll need:

Step 1: Materials

Bucket with lid – I used a High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) bucket with a heavy HDPE lid. Mine was a 6 gallon (22 liter) bucket that originally contained ice-melt compound. The lid is an important component. You may also want a plastic bag to act as a liner and hold the trash when you empty the bucket. A kitty-litter bucket might work, though they usually have thinner material for the lids.

Stick – I used a 4 foot (1.2 meter) wooden paint-roller extension handle, but a broomstick, curtain-rod, dowel, etc. of convenient diameter to hold, and length to stab items on the ground, would work. You'll want a smooth stick, so you don't get splinters.

Nail – I used a 12d 3 1/8” (7.94 cm) steel nail. The nail should be long enough to drive part-way into the stick, with most of it left out to spike the trash.

Step 2: Tools

Drill and drill-bit – use a bit that is just slightly smaller diameter than your nail. I used a 9/64” (3.57mm) drill bit.




Light saw for cutting HDPE – I used a sheetrock saw, but a keyhole saw, electric jigsaw, or a sturdy knife would probably work just as well.


Ruler/compass/circle template.

Step 3: Safety Equipment

Safety glasses – you will be hammering, cutting, and filing steel. These are important, to keep bits out your eyes!

You may also want to wear gloves, especially once you start collecting trash. I used some heavy, rubberized work gloves.

Step 4: ​Part 1 – Make a Pokey Stick!

1) Put on your safety glasses.

2) Take your wooden stick (broom handle, dowel, etc.) and drill a ½ inch (1.3 cm) deep hole into the end of it. Ideally, use a clamp or vise to hold the stick firmly in place while you drill into the center of the end of the stick, parallel to the long axis of the stick.

3) Hammer the nail into the end of the stick, until it is securely embedded in the wood.

4) Saw the head of the nail off with your hacksaw. If you have a vise, secure the nail in the vise near where you cut (this will prevent the nail from bending too much, or getting loosened in the stick).

5) File the end of the nail to a sharp point. Be careful – sharp steel pointy things can pierce you, in addition to piercing trash.

6) Take a small block of wood, drill a hole in it, and place it over sharp point to protect yourself and others when pokey stick is not in use. A hard rubber or plastic ball might work too.

Step 5: Part 2 – Make a Flap-lid Trash Bucket!

1) Trace a circle of about 5.5 inches (14 cm) in diameter in the center of the HDPE bucket lid. I used this can as a template, but you can freehand it, use something else of about the right diameter as a template, or use a compass.

2) Drill a series of holes at ¼ inch (.65 cm) intervals along your traced circle, except for about the last ¼ of the circumference. These will make it easier to cut the flap.

3) Cut out the circle, except for about the last ¼ of the circumference. A sheetrock saw, keyhole saw, power jigsaw, or heavy-duty knife should work. Remember to leave about 1/4 of the circle uncut. This will connect the flap to the lid.

4) Put a trash bag in your bucket, with the edges hanging out over the lip of the bucket.

5) Clip the lid on, securing the bag.

Step 6: Collect Litter!

1) Use your pokey-stick to stab litter on the ground. Works best with paper, plastic wrappers, plastic cups, plastic food trays, aluminum cans. Not good for glass bottles, very hard objects.

2) Push litter into bucket through flap. Once litter is inside bucket, withdraw stick. Flap and edge of hole will scrape litter off of steel spike, retaining it in the bucket.

3) Repeat until bucket is full.

4) Optionally, get another trash can liner and collect another bag of litter. I collected 18 gallons on my block in three trips!