Live Green and Earn Points


How to Plan a Beach Cleanup in 7 Quick Steps

By Katherine Butler |
Each year, around 14 million pounds of trash goes into the ocean. Here's how you can help.

Each year, around 14 million pounds of trash goes into the ocean. And many times, local governments can’t keep up with everything that washes back ashore. From street garbage, through storm drains to littering boaters, trash will find its way to the shore. So it’s up to us to get it off the beaches and into proper landfills and recycling stations.

But how to get it all done?

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1. Pick a date. The ideal clean-up time would be in early Spring and again in the late Fall, just before and after the heaviest beach season. Then call local authorities to make sure the day you pick is appropriate. Plan a time when the tide is going out, exposing more ground to cover and more trash to remove. Check out Tide and Current from NOAA for tidal information.

2. Next, recruit volunteers and spread the word. Social media is a fantastic way to do this – set up an event notification on Facebook, make up an Evite, or Twitter your information. A poster (on recycled paper!) placed in your local coffee house is also a great, old-school way to go.

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3. Let your volunteers know what kind of waste to expect. The most common beach trash is made up of cigarette butts. Apparently smokers tend to consider the beach as one giant ashtray. Other beach cleanups have found things as random as a chandelier and wedding dress. But most likely, you’ll find objects like plastic bags, bottles, cans, and waste paper.

4. Let your volunteers know what supplies to bring and where to get them. People will need items like recyclable garbage bags, gloves, sifters, much of which can be found at a local grocery store or Home Depot. Also make sure you inform your volunteers about parking and suitable clothing. Sturdy, closed-toe shoes are important, as well as protective gloves and sunscreen.

5. The day of your clean up has arrived. Begin with a great cleanup strategy. You can start from the two ends of the beach and work your way into the middle. And be sure you separate the trash into recyclables. Also make sure you arrange for volunteers to bring trucks or vans to carry the garbage to its ultimate disposal places. And most importantly, point out the bathrooms.

6. Be sure you have an emergency plan. A basic first aid kit is important. We all have our cell phones, but walkie-talkies can be handy.

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7. And finally, plan a party at the end of your cleanup. You can hand out prizes for the most trash collected or the most unusual piece of trash. And always feel free to throw up a volleyball net or bust out the body boards. After all, you’ve just cleaned up the beach – time to enjoy!

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