DIY Beach Cleanups

Thank you for your interest in cleaning up your local beach, park, or neighborhood!

Picking up trash and recording data about what you find is one of the best ways to help raise awareness about plastic pollution. Your efforts will also support the Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter’s work to understand the sources of marine debris and our campaigns to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the environment.

In addition to joining a Chapter-organized group cleanup (see our Events page), you can use the resources on this page to organize your own solo or small group cleanup!

Goals

  • To record and report data to support science and policy efforts in Massachusetts and beyond
  • To allow participants to personally witness the problem of plastic pollution and provide a way to immediately make a positive impact
  • To remove trash from a local site and to dispose of it safely and responsibly
  • To inspire participants to take further steps to mitigate plastic pollution, including both personal choices and advocacy for positive structural changes

Disclaimer

Participation in a DIY/solo cleanup event is voluntary and solely at a participant’s own risk, including any risk associated with COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Individuals should only participate to the extent that they can comply with applicable federal, state, and local rules and restrictions, and the below safety guidelines including physical distancing.

Any participant using the information provided on this page knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks, known and unknown, even if arising from the negligence of the Surfrider Foundation and Surfrider Foundation MA Chapter and agrees to waive, release, hold harmless and forever discharge any and all rights and claims which they may have against the Surfrider Foundation, their representatives, employees, officers, and affiliates for sickness, death, injury, loss and any and all damages which may be sustained and/or suffered in connection their use of this information.

Useful Equipment

  • Data Collection
    • Please e-mail completed datacards to ma@surfrider.org and we’ll enter the data into Surfrider’s national cleanups database! A scan or decent photo will work great.
    • Please share any photos or other media that you collect!
    • (Optional) A friend. It works well for one person to record data while others collect the trash.
  • Trash Collection
    • Sturdy work gloves or disposable gloves to protect your hands and minimize your contact with trash
    • A reusable bucket or sturdy bag for collecting/carrying trash
    • Tongs or grabbers to minimize your contact with trash
    • Hand sanitizer, if a method of washing hands with soap and water is not readily available
    • An EPA-approved disinfectant for disinfecting reusable equipment after cleaning
    • A plan for safely disposing of trash you collect
  • Other Considerations
    • Weather-appropriate clothing. It’s New England, please plan accordingly.
    • Sun protection: Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, etc.
    • Food and/or drink. Stay fueled and hydrated!

Safety Guidance (COVID-19 and Otherwise)

As always: No piece of trash or cleanup is worth taking a major risk to your health or that of those around you. Please carefully consider the risks of attending and please stay home if you or someone you are in close contact with are in a high-risk group.

If doing a cleanup right now doesn’t make sense for you, no worries! There are many other ways you can help protect the ocean, waves, and beaches from home. If you write us at ma@surfrider.org, we’ll be happy to share some ideas.

  • Please comply with all applicable federal, state, and local rules and restrictions
  • If anyone in your group is experiencing or has recently experienced any potential COVID-19 symptoms we ask they please stay home and focus on getting well.
  • Follow all local and CDC guidance on wearing face coverings in public. Please remember that a face covering should:
    • Cover your nose and mouth
    • Fit snugly under your chin and to the sides of your face
    • Allow you to breathe with minimal restriction
    • Only be handled by the ear loops or ties
  • Other than people already in your group, please maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet away from others. If the area is crowded, please consider cleaning up a different area or coming back at a different time.
  • We encourage you to partner up with the people who are already part of your ‘quranteam’.
  • Avoid touching your face as much as possible, except immediately after performing hand hygiene.
  • Remember to wash your hands for at 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible after the end of the cleanup.
  • Clean and disinfect your equipment as needed and after finishing
  • Plan and dress appropriately for the weather.
    • Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration and heat exhaustion (or hypothermia). Take plenty of breaks as needed and take action well before you start noticing problems
  • You will sometimes find potentially hazardous or very unpleasant trash, including syringes/needles, other sharp objects, or improperly disposed personal protective equipment. Please do not handle anything that makes you at all unsure, uncomfortable, or unsafe. It’s not worth it.
  • If you find something large and heavy, please ensure that you have a safe way of handling and disposing of it before attempting to haul it.

Cleanup Data Collection

By collecting data on what you find during your cleanup, you can help ensure that the benefits of your work extend well beyond just what you’ve picked up on the day. The Surfrider Foundation and allied organizations regularly use cleanup data to educate, for citizen science, and in advocating for local, state, and federal laws aimed at stopping trash from ending up on the beach in the first place.

We strongly encourage you to record what you find during your cleanup on the provided datacards (Main + COVID Supplement) as you pick up trash. After the cleanup, please email your completed datacards to ma@surfrider.org and a volunteer will enter it into the Surfrider Foundation’s National Beach Cleanup Database.

Normally, data collection is easiest in small teams of 2 to 3, with one person focused on recording data while the others actually pick up trash.

After the Cleanup – Debriefing

Thank you again for taking the time to help keep your local area clean! After group cleanups, we usually gather around the pile of collected trash and talk about what just happened. Instead of that, here are a few things to think about after your DIY cleanup:

  • How much trash did you expect to find when you first arrived at the beach today? How much did you actually find?
  • Did you find anything that surprised you? Confused you? Made you angry? Made you curious?
  • Where do you think this trash comes from?
  • How does what you’ve seen make you feel?
  • What are some ways that this is a problem for you? For your community? For the environment?

We often point out that plastic marine debris, beach trash, and waste management are all problems where personal actions can make a real difference, but where the overall problems are bigger than one person can solve on their own.

  • How can you share what you’ve learned or seen today through your networks?
  • Can you think of any family or friends who would benefit from some education about this topic?
  • What can you do about this? What can your family + friends do? What can your community do?

And finally, if you’re looking for more ways to get involved in reducing waste in your community, your beach, and the marine environment:

  • Please consider joining and supporting the Surfrider Foundation MA Chapter

Remember: Your cleanup was just one step towards a bigger goal. Thank you so much for taking this step and we hope that you plan to take many more going forward!