Plastic and other improperly discarded human waste can be detrimental to the environment. These materials are often made without the ability to biodegrade and even though they may break down, won’t leave the ecosystem for a long time. In terrestrial and marine ecosystems, plastics and discarded waste can entangle, strangle, suffocate or starve plants and animals.
Plastics as well as heavy metals can leach toxic materials into soils and bodies of water that can harm the life that grows there. There have even been studies looking at the harmful effects of toxic leaching and unintentional ingestion of plastic in humans. By removing and properly discarding these hazardous materials through beach or nature cleanups, you can help protect your local natural environments from further harm.
Here are a few tips to help organize a beach or other natural area cleanup of your own:
1) Choose your squad. When organizing a clean-up, the more helping hands the better! It's a lot of work to cover larger areas of land, so form a small (or large!) group to help in your efforts.
2) Pick a date, time and place. Depending on the season it may make sense to go earlier or later in the day due to weather or other visitors. While unfortunately most beaches and natural areas will need your help, pick one that can fit the needs of your team. Before organizing your event, check with local officials to make sure you have any permits or paperwork filled out to start collecting.
3) Spread the word. After the date, time and place are set it is important to spread the word! Get your family and friends together to help out, but remember to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including socially distancing from others not in your household & wearing masks. As far as equipment needed, gardening or work gloves and buckets work well for collecting. For an added bonus, a pickup reach tool with a claw can be helpful! You can either supply the equipment, tell your cleanup crew to bring their own or work with a cleanup organization. Some examples are Debris Free Oceans or Seven Clean Seas, to borrow supplies based on your crew size.
4) Make it fun! While not totally necessary, consider bringing speakers to play music to liven the mood. Other morale-boosting ideas are to bring drinks and snacks for your crew -- clean-ups are a lot of hard work! If you happen to be working with a competitive group like a team or even your family, creating prizes for whoever picks up the most trash will not only get incentive but also will be great for the environment. Don’t forget to take photos to document your success!
5) Properly dispose of trash. Depending on the volume of trash you've picked up, make sure that you properly dispose of all bags (and any snacks eaten along the way!) in a nearby dumpster or even the local dump. By volume alone, the beach or park area of cleanup may not have a place to dispose of large volumes of garbage, so make sure to plan ahead.
While large service events may not be totally possible at the moment, during the pandemic don’t be afraid to put some headphones on and get your steps in with a cleanup of your own! If you are looking to avoid gatherings, grab a trash bag and some reusable gloves when you go for a walk and pick up as you go. Maybe even call some friends and all do a virtual beach clean. Every piece of trash picked up, no matter how small, helps to get you to clean up your local area & make it a happier and healthier place for all.
by Brielle Racanelli | March 29, 2021