Everybody Picks Up the Trash

When people are asked what impresses them the most about a trip to Disney World, one of the first answers is how clean they find the park.  People are always amazed at how a place so big could stay so clean. It shouldn’t be so amazing when you realize that every one of the Cast Members is expected to help keep it clean.

Trash played an important part in the development of Disneyland, and that same ethos has carried forward to this day to all the other parks. Here’s the backstory:

One of the driving factors of Walt Disney’s creation of Disneyland stemmed from incidents with his children in dirty, run-down amusement parks around the country and in Europe. With the visions of Disneyland beginning to form in his mind, Disney told his wife that he was going to build an amusement park so clean that people would be embarrassed to throw anything on the ground.

Phase 1: As the plans progressed on Disneyland, Walt Disney wasn’t satisfied with ordinary trash cans that were basically open barrels. He wanted something that would hide the trash inside while looking attractive on the outside. When he couldn’t find an existing model to fit his standards, he worked with a local manufacturer and the Disney trashcan was born. In addition to being functional, the trash cans evolved into matching the setting of the park they were in – becoming another part of the design itself.

Phase 2: While he had planned to have a large number of custodial staff circulating through the park at all times, Disney worked with Van France, the founder of Disney University, on initial training for all Cast Members. The first rule taught may have been “We create happiness,” but the second right behind it was “Everyone picks up the trash.”

Phase 3: At opening day of Disneyland, wrapped candy was handed out along with the attraction tickets. A group of Imagineers had been designated to observe the crowds, specifically when they tossed the candy wrapper away. Very quickly they determined that it was somewhere between 20 and 30 steps, so that’s were the trash cans were located.

Since then, Disneyland and all the other parks created since then are renowned for being clean, friendly, and fun. Of course, the Cast Members who serve on the Showkeeping teams see to that.



But there’s more to it than just a well-trained, efficient custodial team. On a recent trip to the Magic Kingdom, I experienced it first hand.



Sitting down curbside at dusk in anticipation of the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic!, and the Wishes nighttime fireworks at the end of the evening, I glanced up when I saw a Cast Member dressed in business casual clothing walk by, detour about 10 steps to pick up some trash, walk to the nearest trash can to drop it in, and continue on his way.

Smiling, I recalled the question asked by our Disney Institute guide Ernesto earlier in the day:


How many people are on the custodial staff at Disney World?

Answers from our group ranged from several hundred to several thousand.

The actual answer? About 67,000.

Our group seemed very surprised, and this reinforced the next Takeaway:

Everybody Picks Up the Trash

In the Disney organization, there is an inner value of ownership that goes beyond every Cast Member picking up trash when they see it. It gets back to never saying, “It’s not my job.” This Takeaway is not about trash, although that is important.

It’s about everyone being involved in your organization, from bottom to top. It’s about creating priorities, about being a part of a team that demonstrates care, no matter what your role is.

What does “Everybody picks up the trash” look like in your organization?

#8 in a series of #TopTenTakeaways

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