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Annual Camino Cleanup Coming Up!

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
The first week of December is Camino Cleanup time!
For the second year in a row, a team of valiant trash-pickers will walk the width of Palencia province, (Puente de Fitero to San Nicolas del Real Camino) cleaning up the trash left behind by a year of travelers on the Camino Frances.

If a littered camino bothers you, this is your opportunity to join with others and do something besides complain and shoot photos of the awfulness. Using trash bags donated by kind people in South Africa and Australia, we will hit a new strip of polluted trail each day and do as thorough a job as we safely can. Volunteers are lined-up from UK, USA, and Portugal. Room, board, and coordination (more or less!) is provided at Peaceable Kingdom Moratinos. Your support is needed, in form of food, trash bags, cash for gas, or best of all: labor! Trash bags will be provided to all passing pilgrims. To join the fun (just one day will do!) send me an IM, or email at rebrites (at) .

If you are not on the Meseta in the first week of December you can also collect the waste from Melide to Arzua, in beautiful Galicia. Hospitaleras Heidi T. Tasin and Petra Semper at the Taberna Vella (km 32) are offering for every full trash bag one free cup of coffee with a very special cake.
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Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPP-SdC (4-5/2011), Ferrol-SdC (9/2011), Pamplona-SdC (3-4/2012), Camino Finisterre (10/2012), Ourense-SdC (5/2014)
Rebekah Scott said:
Volunteers are lined-up from UK, USA, and Portugal.
Wow! We'll get through Palencia in no time! Three are better than two. We might even get back as far as the bar in Rabe so I can get a medal of the Senora de Milagros for a friend who needs one. I don't fancy climbing that hill after Castrojeriz, though. :D

Buen Camino!


Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
I'm so sorry I can't join your group Reb.
I promise to make every body on the amaWalkers Camino group walks pick up trash at least one day on their Camino next year!

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Camino Cleanup 2013 is a big success!
Tyrrek, J Flavin, and four more hard-working volunteers joined me along the trail through Palencia, and over six days we gave it the most thorough going-over yet. Each year we find LESS litter along the Way, perhaps because we cleaned up the Trash of the Ages over the past five years, perhaps because some other like-minded group is picking up litter too, or perhaps we are just getting a better class of pilgrim these days.
Whatever it is, I thank everyone who supported us with labor, good thoughts, donations, and nice emails. I think small, locally-based efforts are the way to go on this loosely-organized trail, but I am willing to hear anyone´s great ideas on how we can expand onto the greater Camino and perhaps instill some prevention in the meantime.
And now I will take a long nap!


Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Finished: See post signature.
Upcoming: Nothing planned
It is such a great thing you are doing!!

Next time I'm on the camino I'll try to pick up at least one empty plastic bottle or some other trash and throw it in a bin per day. Doing something to make the camino cleaner.

This year I handed out ziplock bags to woman I met who didn't have anything to put their used toilet paper in.

I wish they could give you a list of "how to keep the camino clean"-paper/guide when you get the credentials. A list of easy things to do.
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New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Several. Over a very long time
"If a littered camino bothers you, this is your opportunity to join with others and do something besides complain and shoot photos of the awfulness."

Yes it does bother me, as it does many - probably most people. This fouling implies much - which troubles me. I can't understand it actually - the crappy littering. It's vile and disrespectful to the human spirit and our planet. Perhaps the litter is because this wonderful camino has become humdrum for some, a mere 'cool' thing to do.

Yet cleaning up after polluting pilgrims may not be the answer and may be a false and illusory solution. Wonderful short term yes! of course...feels good... Long term, you volunteer yourself for the eternal job, achieving little, and certainly not a change in awareness. But if you want to do it, do it without resentment?

When I was young, my poor old mother cleaned up after me. She was wrong - she should have made me clean up. Today, we can't be responsible for the mess that others make, and nothing we do can make it better in the long term. Or we'll be cleaning up forever, eternal martyrs. So unless you want to be cleaning up forever, don't do it. Or do it quietly and suffer the 'awfulness', which I also find awful. Some good and well meaning people may clean up a section of the camino (till tomorrow) - the rest of this precious Way remains foul. I'm sure there is a metaphor here for modern living, polluted by commercialism and its fallout.

What's needed is a change in 'litter consciousness' and neither you nor I are likely to change that, unfortunately. It's a huge task. Gigantic.

We may clean up this month in this place; are we there to clean up every month after that? The problem is thus masked., if a section looks clean - for today.

A Hindu friend long ago spoke of 'precipitating a crisis' - let it go.....

On a practical note , if at each pilgrim stopping point the bin was a wire structure whose contents could easily be burned , then this might make the job easier. But still no change in awareness....that's a biggy....


Staff member
I have never participated in a concerted camino cleanup. The most I've done over the past dozen years is to occasionally carry a bag and pick up a few things here and there. But, even though I may speak from ignorance, I'm going to have to disagree with you, Gyrovagus.

For one thing, I think that the cleaner the Camino is, the less likely people are to trash it. Kind of a "Broken Windows" theory for litter.

And for another, your analogy about your mother isn't entirely persuasive -- most of the people who walk the Camino will never come back, so there is no way that leaving the litter there will teach them to clean up after themselves.

I do agree with you that the only permanent solution is to change consciousness. And to say it can't be done kind of flies in the face of our experience in the U.S. In my lifetime, the social norm about throwing things on the ground has changed dramatically. But that change is due entirely to the efforts of people who made it their cause, sometimes on a large scale (think Ladybird Johnson), but more often than not at the local or neighborhood level.

I don't think there's any resentment in the air during the Moratinos cleanup -- my bet is that there is a lot of camaraderie, lots of laughing, lots of good food and wine, and a comforting sense of having done no harm (and even some positive good) at the end of the day. Not a bad way to spend a few days, IMO.


New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Several. Over a very long time
Fair points p2000. Yet if those 'who will never come back' find a clean place, it will seem to them like an empty bin to throw rubbish in. The task remains endless. Which does not mean that the 'cleaners' are not good people - far from it. It's an understandable reaction about the need to DO something. But you will agree that the rubbish will be there next it is this year. For me that's the important issue, yet I admit I have no answer to that. I dont know who does.

Let's say that some active people can clean 10 kms of trail - that's about 1% of the Camino Frances from Roncesvalles to SDC.

I suspect that in past centuries people chucked rubbish too, but as they had little they threw little and they had only stuff which rotted quick.

I don't know who Ladybird Johnson is...???
Last edited:


Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2010/2011/2012/2013: Madrid -Salvador -Primitivo 2014: EPW 2015: Amsterdam - SdC
Great idea and work Rebekah!
It's true that 'litter consciousness' is important too. But as long as there is no answer to that, you gotta start somewhere!

By doing this and also writing about it here, Rebekah at least made me more conscious about this issue. Om my last camino this year, it inspired me to pick up one item of trash a day (and sometimes two ;)) and take it to a wastebin. Thanks Rebekah!

John and Mandi

New Member
I added a somewhat related post in another topic -->

Sometimes it may not be possible to completely change behavior but that shouldn't prevent anyone from finding an actual solution. The fact is that trash needs to be picked up, not just for aesthetic reasons but also for ecological/environmental. To me the questions then become: Can it be done in an enriching way instead of just laborious? Is it possible to bring many things together to accomplish multiple goals instead of just the initial task at hand? Can we include those less fortunate than ourselves? Can this grow beyond a single trail to benefit countries and people across the world?

I can't solve world hunger from picking up litter, wish I could, but I do think that this problem can be solved while answering yes to all of those above questions. Where I fall short is actually implementing the idea. However collectively, I don't believe that's the case.

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Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
There is an old quote "When all is said and done, there is usually more said than done"

I have found that going out and doing something is more effective than just talking about doing something or complaining about something.

This is a case of leading by example. Most Pilgrims passing someone picking up trash along the Camino will, I believe, think twice about just throwing their litter along side the road. They might even be inspired to pick up a piece of trash along the way.


Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
If we wait til the world consciousness to change, if we wait for some comprehensive litter plan to come down from above, if we refuse to clean up today because someone might come along tomorrow and make another mess, we doom ourselves and others to a lesser and messier Way.

The Camino Cleanup Crew doesn´t do what it does out of resentment (although the more flagrant and smelly litter can really make you wonder about the people who left it there). Resentment is poor fuel for a long haul.

We are working locally on a global problem. We love the camino, we consider it a holy place that merits our labor and maintenance. We believe in what the pilgrims are doing -- most of us were pilgrims ourselves. Cleaning up the path is a time-honored way to support the pilgrimage and pilgrims -- San Juan de Ortega and Santo Domingo de la Calzada are obvious examples. Or on an even loftier plane, the prophet Isaiah, who shouted out for someone to "make straight in the desert a highway," to "prepare ye the Way of the Lord."

And that is why we pick up pilgrim litter, farm refuse, and the junk people throw out of their cars. The trash is here now, and so are we. It does no harm to pick it up -- some of us actually enjoy it. Everybody benefits, if only a little bit.
We would rather not have to.
If every pilgrim each year picked up a single piece of refuse each day, the entire path would be sparkling clean in no time.


Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
My vote of thanks goes to Rebekah the glorious, who for years cleaned up bits of the Camino herself. It's marvellous that this year she organised enough people and gave a whole week to clean the path through Palencia. Deeds indeed. Pious platitudes and words are soooooo easy.
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Veteran Member
I applaud Reb and company's work but a change of consciousness is always possible. Laurie mentioned how that occured in the U.S. which I can confirm. I also have experienced this during my 20 years in The Netherlands. When I arrived I was disgusted by the amount of dog excrement on sidewalks. I won't go into the details but you had to watch your every step. No one took responsibility for the clean up until someone finally spoke up and acted. It is now a rarity. There are special trash bins and dog owners carry plastic bags and clean up immediately.

There is something that can be done collectively (individually) and that is by not being part of the problem.

There is no need to liter. Carry a plastic bag and use it. And while we're at it, let's pick up someone else's trash too.


Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2011)
There is a saying which goes something the change you want in the world. Rebekah is living that by doing her part to clean up the Camino, to clean up the world. You are an inspiration and my hat is off to you, Rebekah.

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