Every year, at least 14 million tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine debris. Plastic pollution in the ocean and coasts are a huge threat to marine species and seabirds as animals can mistake plastic for food, causing them to die of suffocation, infections, and starvation. Plastic waste can also lead to entanglement and injuries, threatening the lives of these animals—which can lead to extinction—and further polluting the environment, impacting food safety, human health, coastal tourism, the climate, and the food web.
The main solution to stopping plastic from ending up in our natural environment is: prevention. If we are able to prevent plastic waste from entering rivers and seas, they are less likely to become a hazard to marine animals and seabirds. In order to make this happen, proper waste disposal and recycling systems are required, as well as reducing the production and use of single-use plastic, designing with circularity in mind, and taking care of our environment through events like beach cleanups.
Today we will be focusing on organizing a beach cleanup and everything you need to know before, during, and after. Keep reading for some helpful tips and reminders!
BEFORE THE CLEANUP
Choose a location:
- Check if the location is suitable for a cleanup. Is there a lot of trash accumulated? Is it safe for people to be there?
- Ensure volunteers can safely access the site
Contact your local official to get approval beforehand
Pick a date and time:
- At the start and end of a season, more trash is likely to have been accumulated
- Before noon or in the afternoon when temperatures aren’t as high to avoid heat exhaustion
- Avoid extreme weather conditions to ensure the safety of all volunteers
Spread the word:
- Let your friends, family, community know to about the event so they can join
- Reach out to like-minded people who might be willing to support the event
- Make it fun!
- Prepare compostable bags, gloves, and appropriate tools such as metal tongs, rakes, scissors, etc.
- Bring reef-safe sunscreen, drinking water, snacks, and a first-aid kit
- Have a camera or phone to document the event
- A Scale to weigh all the trash collected at the end of the event
Handling the trash:
- Plan how the trash, recyclables, and hazardous waste will be handled
- Arrange with your local waste department if necessary
DURING THE CLEANUP
Wear appropriate clothing:
- Wear comfortable clothing and close-toed shoes
- Don't forget sun protection (ie. reef-safe sunscreen, sun hats, etc.)
Take care of yourself and each other:
- Remember to stay hydrated, reapply SPF, take breaks and have snacks to stay energized
- Handle what you can, as some debris can be hazardous
- Look out for one another, safety first!
- Don’t forget to document your experience, take photos of your findings, before and afters, your accomplishments, and each other for the memories
AFTER THE CLEANUP
Proper disposal of waste:
- Sort recyclables, garbage, and hazardous waste
- Follow through with your waste disposal plan. Where will the trash be disposed? How will you transport the garbage bags?
Share your experience with one another:
- What was your most shocking finding? Was there more or less trash than you expected? What type of garbage was the most common? What did you learn from this experience? Was there more or less garbage than you had expected?
Finally, celebrate your success with others!
- Share your photos on social media, have discussions about the event, and don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for all the hard work!
“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”
Sylvia Earle, oceanography, deep sea explorer, field researcher
We only have one Earth, and we must do everything we can to protect it. Together we can create change, so let’s join our efforts to protect our planet one step at a time. The ocean is beautiful and home to so many species and organisms that each are crucial to the livelihood of one another. It is through events like beach cleanups, that we can take immediate action to save our planet, and at the same time raise awareness about environmental issues that are threatening the health of our planet.