elaine / Jul 16

How to organize a beach clean-up

elaine / Jul 16

It’s no secret that plastic is basically the enemy of all species–especially to the ocean–and here’s one way to help: a beach clean-up. Plastic has an effect on everyone, it’s found in 62% of all seabirds, 100% of all turtles, and guess what? It’s in the fish we eat too, so chances are we’ve ingested quite a bit of plastic over the years. 
A beach clean-up is not only a great way to clean your local beach or waterway to prevent more plastic and other waste from entering the ocean, but it’s also a way to get others involved and to spread awareness about the effects of single-use plastic consumption on our planet, a way to educate others about proper recycling techniques, and to encourage everyone to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic. Here’s how you can do all that:

Choose a location

Whether it’s a beach, lake, or river, cleaning up litter around waterways prevents more of it from ending up in the ocean–so you don’t have to be in a coastal city to do your part. The location can be anywhere you frequent or a popular destination among the locals. Your community will thank you for it–and so will marine life! 

Promote on social media 

Keep your event organized by creating an event page on Facebook. You can set the page to “Public” and invite your friends and family to share your event with their friends, friends of friends, and the sharing continues!

Practice proper waste disposal

Have designated bags for trash, glass, plastic, cans, scrap metals, etc. (educate participants on what goes where!). It might be helpful to distribute a digital cheat sheet of the types of waste people might find, where they go and where to put them. You might even want to have someone who knows the waste disposal system pretty well to help others figure out where to put their items. This will help minimize any incorrect disposals that may jam up the recycling process and cause problems for the waste management facility. 
Recyclables, liquids, compost, hazardous materials, scrap metal, and landfill waste must be organized into separate bins. Plan ahead so you have a good system in place that won’t get confusing over time. 
We can’t stress the importance of proper waste disposal enough! This is the perfect opportunity to educate people on how to recycle properly since this applies to how they recycle at home as well. What your local waste management company is able to take varies by location so be sure to check with them before you hold your event. 

Helpful contacts

If this is your first time putting together an event, remember–you’re not alone! Leverage your friends and family who are as passionate about this cause as you are and seek out help from others! Here are some helpful groups of people to reach out to that can provide some guidance and support for your beach clean-up:

Connect with local park rangers

For any medium-sized or large event, it’s always a good idea to make sure that law enforcement gets a heads-up. There might be supplies you were thinking about bringing that isn’t allowed. Local park rangers are the perfect people to ask questions about where to park, how to get there, the best routes to use for efficiently disposing of waste, whether or not there are dumpsters nearby or if you’d have to use a hauling service to take the collected waste to a nearby waste management facility. 

Connect with local waste management facility

It’s very important to educate your volunteers about proper recycling procedure and what goes where. Did you know that plastic toothbrushes are not recyclable? It’s because they have nylon bristles attached to them. The goal here is to be able to minimize the number of items that go into the landfill by filtering out recyclables and delivering them to the proper recycling facilities. However, some things do have to go to the landfill, and your local waste management facility will be able to tell you what goes where. 

Contact municipality

It does take a bit of leg work, coordinating, and money to haul litter away and the waste management facility does charge for its services as well. Sometimes, the city will want to step in to provide some help taking care of these types of expenses and provide hauling services as a courtesy for the cleanup. Compose a professional email detailing your event and what your goals are, how it will benefit the community, and how big of a turnout you expect. It might also be helpful to provide some images of the location you are planning to hold the clean-up. Don’t forget to provide your own contact information and the event page so city employees have a lot of information to base their decision on! 

Monetary donations

If you’re doing this right, you might have some monetary donations coming your way. Now, you don’t want to just have people Venmo or Paypal you because that might get a little messy. Instead, set up a fundraising option on Facebook, GoFundme, or another fundraising site to keep the total amount separate from your personal banking account. It’s also good practice to keep things transparent for your supporters by doing so. 

What to do with that money? 

For starters, you should check to see if you have enough supplies–if not, you could use the money to buy some for the clean-up (and plan to use them again for future clean-ups). If you were able to get enough supplies donated, you could use the money to cover the costs of hauling services or the fees for waste management and recycling facilities if applicable. If these are all covered (woohoo!), it might be nice to treat volunteers to some food (for example, from a local sandwich shop), or donate the money to the Ocean Conservancy or other environmental nonprofits focused on cleaning up our oceans!

Supplies you might need

Safety Tips 

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash