Summer is a time to enjoy the outdoors and soak up as much sun as possible before the inevitable chilly weather of fall arrives. It’s a time for cookouts, parties and visits to the park, and a time where we love to relax on beaches and play in the water. But as we walk along the sandy beaches, we often see a sad and unsightly reminder of what humans are doing to the planet.
Sprinkled along the shoreline, people find balloons, food waste, bottles, and cans — even tires and fishing nets. Some of it was intentionally left behind by careless people, but much of it comes directly from the ocean, which has slowly turned into plastic soup.
Our oceans are filled with so much plastic trash, it is estimated they will contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050. A combination of sun and friction from the water breaks down plastic items into microplastics that are ingested by fish and marine animals. Birds have been found deceased with stomachs full of plastic, and marine animals get tangled in fishing nets and plastic bags. This trash is more than just an eyesore along the coastlines, it is a major danger to wildlife and marine animals, and it is poisoning the environment by leaching chemicals into the water and land.
While the problem may seem too overwhelming to tackle, we can help keep our beaches clean and safe for everyone by doing our part to pick up trash. One fun and easy way to do this is by hosting a beach cleanup with your friends. You’ll be amazed at the difference you can make in just a few hours.
Getting People Involved
An impromptu cleanup can be perfect for a small group of friends, but if you want to get a large number of people involved, put a message out on social media or hang up signs at parks and local shops. It’s an activity that can be fun for people of all ages, and it is a great way to teach people about the importance of keeping our planet clean.
Get a count of people ahead of time, and use your event invite to post information about time, location and what supplies everyone should bring. If people aren’t able to participate but still want to help, ask them to make a donation to cover fees for recycling and extra supplies.
Pick a time when the beach is least busy, and notify local authorities to make sure there aren’t any conflicts. Also have a plan for where you’ll be disposing of the trash. If there aren’t dumpsters or recycling containers nearby, you’ll want to make sure you have someone who can haul the trash away. Check with the city to see if they offer hauling services as a courtesy for cleanup efforts.
Reducing Landfill Waste
As you’re picking up trash, make sure you have bags designated for items such as cans, glass, and plastic bottles that can be recycled. Tires, appliances, and other large items can usually be brought to recycling facilities as well; check online for a list of items your local facility accepts and any associated fees. A lot of landfill waste makes its way into the ocean, so recycling is key to stopping the trash pollution cycle.
Practicing Safe Cleanup
Broken glass, sharp metal, and even syringes can be found in the sand. Keep everyone safe by wearing closed-toe shoes and a pair of thick fabric gloves. A metal sifter also provides protection while gathering small items like cigarette butts and broken glass. If it’s sunny, don’t forget to protect your skin with eco-friendly and cruelty-free sunscreen, and bring along sunglasses or a hat to protect your eyes.
Keeping It Green
When possible, use burlap or canvas bags to pick up trash and recyclables. These bags can be dumped out and reused for future beach cleanups, helping to reduce the number of plastic bags going into landfills. If you don’t have either on hand, old buckets or recycled paper bags work just as well.
Celebrating Your Hard Work
Turn your beach cleanup into an all-day event. Hang out on the beach afterward and have a plant-based picnic to re-energize everyone after a long day. Keep the party waste-free by asking everyone to bring reusable plates, napkins, cups, and silverware — and don’t forget to compost the food scraps. Take before-and-after pictures to share online and celebrate your efforts to help make the world a cleaner place.
Don’t live by a beach? You can still do your part by organizing a cleanup event along the shores of lake or river in your area.
Lead image source: Wikimedia