Here’s How You Can Help Clean Up Beaches This Summer

Image: Shutterstock; Illustration: Kyra Thompson/Thrillist

Whether your local beach is a secluded paradise or a busy hotspot, it’s always a great place to kick back and bask in the vibes. But plastic waste washing up on shores and other litter cuts down on the enjoyment factor, not to mention harms local wildlife and vegetation. Luckily, people — and companies — are starting to take action. For example, Corona recently committed to cleaning 100 beaches and eliminating over 1 million pounds of plastic from our shores and from their supply chains by 2025. Their Protect Our Beaches campaign aims to cut down on plastic used during their business practices, to ensure beaches stay clean for the future. Inspired by their work, we’ve put together a guide on how you can take charge this summer and make a difference in your own sunny sanctuary.

Get involved locally

Beach pollution has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, so there may already be groups in your area that organize cleanup days. National organizations like Oceanic Global (Corona’s partner in their campaign) have local hubs as well as nationwide initiatives to tackle plastic from a holistic perspective. Other nationwide groups like the Surfrider Foundation have local cleanup chapters across the US (and elsewhere!), so they’re a good place to check. If you’re still looking, try contacting your local government, as parks and recreation departments will often run their own efforts. At the very least, they’ll be able to offer you support and guidance on your own cleanup, multiplying your impact. 

Reduce, reuse, recycle

That old mantra of reducing your plastic waste still holds true. The first step to making sure our beaches are clean is getting rid of everything that clutters them. Switch to compostable and non-plastic options where possible, especially for those beach essentials that could get lost and become litter. (One common culprit: doggie bags.) Packing your own meals in reusable containers instead of bringing single-use containers will help ensure that nothing gets left behind as well. The most important piece of the puzzle is to clean up after yourself, no matter what type of plastic you’re using.

Think about the “small stuff”

Certain things may seem like a small deal, but collectively can add up to big problems. Cigarette butts made up one-fifth of all litter found on beaches by the European Environment Agency. (Disposable plastics like cups and single-use bags made up another 20% of litter.) Things like spitting gum out into the ocean can be a major nuisance, since it’s rarely biodegradable and can stay sticky for a long time. Certain kinds of sunscreen are worth swapping out as well, as they can contain chemicals that damage marine life. Check for “reef safe” labeling to ensure you’re not adding to the problem. The sad reality is that there are a lot of ways to damage sensitive ecosystems and exacerbate the problem of cluttered beaches, so it’s important to be mindful.

Image: Shutterstock; Illustration: Kyra Thompson/Thrillist

Organize your friends

Your beach is your zen spot, so gather a group of friends to help keep it that way. It’s fairly self-explanatory, but make sure you follow a few key steps. For one, you’ll want to get permission from your local government. On the day-of, make sure you have some key supplies: trash bags, gloves, sanitizer, and maybe a pair of grabber claws to save your back. Make sure you know what can be recycled and where to put it. Then, partition off sections of the beach to make sure every area gets thorough coverage. You can even track your trash using the NOAA Marine Debris Tracker App, which will help scientists identify problem areas.

Spread the word

Collective action is the name of the game. Everything listed in this guide is easier and more impactful when everyone is on board, so let your friends and family know how to keep their beaches clean. The bigger your turnout for the clean-ups, the better. And the more people that know how to keep their litter from becoming a problem, the less mess for others to clean up. Change your thinking to get from “me” to “we.”

Make smart lifestyle changes

Ocean health runs deeper than just litter on our beaches. The way to a cleaner ocean involves several steps, not all of which can be solved by a cleanup day. Things like consuming sustainably caught or farmed seafood is a big one — nearly 50% of ocean plastic found in the North Pacific Gyre was from fishing nets alone. Groups like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch publish guides to help you make better decisions about where your fish comes from. Another step is to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use, especially near bodies of water. The EPA gives guidelines for homeowners that can make a big difference. Change starts with all of us, so get informed and lead the way to a cleaner, happier beach.