I bet you will agree with me; a clean beach is the best retreat for every soul. But, have you been to the beach and find lots of waste? How on earth does all the litter find its way there? How can we prevent or clean it up? I know these are some of the questions that will definitely run through your mind.
Each year about 11 million metric tons of plastic litter find their way to the ocean. What is worrying is the trash can grow to 29 million metric tons in the next 20 years. This is not forgetting that over 12 million volunteers have collected more than 220 million pounds of waste. So, instead of pointing fingers, it’s time for you and me to take up the responsibility of making our beaches clean.
Now when you go to the beach to pick up the litter, you will notice that there is much more than meets the eye. There is a lot of pollution coming from different sources apart from just littering.
In this article, you’ll learn the different polluting factors along with the best way to do a beach cleanup.
Let’s dive in!
How to organize a beach cleanup
Step1: Identify the cleanup site
Pick a beach that needs cleanup, ensuring it is safe and accessible. Contact the local park agency for permission to undertake a cleanup event. They will need to know the date and the number of people involved in the exercise.
Step 2: Coordinate the event or choose a coordinator
You can be in charge of organizing everything right, from the supplies needed to mobilizing the volunteers. Alternatively, you can pick a site manager who will be tasked to coordinate every detail of the event.
Step 3: Pick a date
The start of spring or the end of fall is the best period to do beach cleanups. Go on the day when other group members are free, like on weekends. The ideal time is when the beaches are not busy, probably in the morning hours.
Step 4: Mobilize resources and people with similar interest
Tell your friends and family with similar interests to join you in the cleanup exercise. Team up with environmental groups in your place for support, even in terms of resources.
Step 5: Spread the word
With online space, you can reach many people through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If need be, publish the details of the cleanup event in the local newspaper. Inform residents near the beach and other frequent users such as SUPers, surfers, and anglers.
Step 6: Gather supplies
It is your responsibility as the organizer to provide the supplies needed for the cleanup exercise. Gloves and a trash bag are a must. You will also need tools like shovels, sifters, and rakes. Apart from this, first aid kits, wipes, hand sanitizers, and large water coolers come in handy. Carry snacks, sunscreen, and drinks to keep your group happy. You can also ask the volunteers to bring bug spray and reusable water bottles.
Step 7: Plan all the logistics
Visit the area beforehand and figure out where your team will park and leave the trash and recyclables after the event. Check whether there is a need for directional signage and identify the place to put it up. Send reminders to the group and have emergency plans if the need arises.
Also, plan on the proper way to handle hazardous waste and recyclables.
Step 8: Make it fun and safe
During the D-day, wear sunscreen, gloves and take lots of water. Tune in to some music while collecting trash to keep up the moods. Pick even the micro-plastics and plan to reward those who collect the most litter.
Step 9: Share the success
Weigh up the litter and take them to designated places. Now take pictures and share success all over social media. Pat yourself on the back and send a thank-you message to everyone who participated.
Practical tips for a beach cleanup with friends and family
Participate in a beach clean up
Organize a cleanup group with friends and family and set up the date and time for the exercise. Maximize the area you cover by going to different spots on the beach. Better yet, make it a competition with a prize for the person who collects the most trash. If you are all alone, join an already organized ocean cleanup dedicated to litter-free oceans.
For 7 years, Green future has collected over 2.6 million litter from beaches. If this volume of trash can be removed by one volunteer group, imagine how much can be removed if each one of us participated!
When glamping at the beach, deal with open flames carefully.
Who doesn’t enjoy a beach bonfire when relaxing, camping, or glamping? But you have to deal with the old fire pits to keep the beach clean. The blowing ashes everywhere makes the seashores dirty. If you set the fire, take the responsibility to put it out with water and prevent embers from spreading by covering it with sand.
Please wait until the rocks you used are cool, then take them back to their initial location. Use the sand to fill the hole, and the beach will be a sight to behold.
Do not burn the trash as well. It is illegal on many shores to burn litter. Besides, the bonfire doesn’t produce enough temperature to destroy the trash. Rather, the incomplete combustion turns waste into toxic ash particles and tiny sooth. This will be blown into the air which finally spreads around the beach, deposited to the surrounding soil and vegetation, and finally into the sea.
Use reusable containers when going to the beach
You are not an angel! If you carry plastic wrap, tinfoil, and any other non-reusable containers, chances are you will forget it at the beach intentionally or not. Being cautious of what you carry to the shore can help keep it clean. Use reusable containers since you can easily remember to return them home to be used for other activities.
Note that even single-use plastics can find their way to the ocean. So, even when out of the beach, instead of plastic packs, use reusable water bottles, grocery bags, and coffee cups. Always be mindful of the containers you purchase as a way to protect yourself and the environment.
Nonetheless, you might need to dispose of some trash while at the beach. In this case, packing a trash bag comes in handy. Some seashores do not have adequate recycling services and waste disposal. Having a trash bag will always remind you to put any waste there until you get a proper place to dispose of it.
Carry a portable ashtray
Imagine the sight of cigarette butts left, right, and center at the beach? It is one of the main things that pollute the seas. Cigarette remains, when left in the sand, find their way to the ocean. The worst thing is one of them releases a toxin capable of killing 50% of the fish within 24 hours.
Besides, since butt mimics insects, marine animals consume them. As they are not digested, the butt remains in the stomach forever, endangering lives. So, always carry a portable ashtray to put the butt for proper disposal with other waste.
How does trash end up on our waterfront?
You might have made every effort to dispose of the trash properly at the beach. And even use recyclable containers, but the problem seems persistent. You might be quick to judge others, and if not, the question will be: how does the trash get to the beach?
Actually, 80% of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean comes from land sources. It finds its way to the beach in the following ways:
Littering the streets
Litter that is left on the street doesn’t stay there forever. The wind and rain carry the trash into rivers and streams via the drains. And, since all the drains lead to the ocean, the litter ends up there.
To avoid such scenarios, it is important to dispose of waste properly and carefully, even on land. Any illegal dumping of waste makes our beaches dirty and subverts the efforts of volunteer groups in cleanup activities.
Throwing recyclable plastic in the bin
Most plastics are recyclable and should be taken to recycling companies and not thrown in the bin. If you toss the waste into the bin, it will end up in a landfill. Probably, due to its lightweight, the plastics will be blown away during transport to the landfill or at a disposal site. Wherever it settles, it will clutter and enter the rivers and seas through drains.
Wildlife also plays a role in the land trash getting to the beaches. Animals dig out the landfills exposing the waste that can be easily blown to drains and finally to the ocean. Some can even ingest the litter and spit it out far away from the disposal site; hence, draining to sea.
Knocks docks and buoys
Besides plastic, you might have noticed a lot of foam waste on our beaches. How on earth does this foam end up there? When water levels rise, the docks and buoys are knocked around, breaking them apart. The foams used in their construction, therefore, end up at sea.
Products flushed down the drains
All the waterways lead to the sea, and we release waste to these channels when we flush the toilets. Sanitary products, cotton pads, or wet wipes will take ages to decompose when they go down the drain. They will find their way to waterfronts, and since it doesn’t decompose easily, it litters the beach. In 2017, over 5,000 wet wipes were deposited in Thames foreshore alone. Think of it and how simple flushing could have contributed to it!
Other waste such as dental floss, cotton balls, medicine, oil, pet litter, and microfibers, once flushed through drains, find their way to the ocean. Take responsibility not to drain such products, rather use proper disposal methods. Global corporations and local businesses have a mandate too. Sensitize people around you, even at workplaces, to help keep our beaches clean.
People leaving litter carelessly at the beach
Cigar butts and other trash left behind by people. It all starts with us avoiding such a situation. Take time also to sensitize people around beaches to help reduce such waste.
Never wait for another person to do it! If others can do it, you can too. That is the spirit that we should all embrace to keep our beaches clean.