How you can help clean up beaches during COVID-19


As we dive deeper into COVID-19, most of us are feeling frustrated working from home. Plastic usage around the world has increased and some of us who have done beach cleanups before or are interested in participating in a beach cleanup in the future might wonder about how we could help out our local beaches. For some background information, there has been more COVID-19 related trash like masks, gloves, syringes, etc., washing up on our beaches. As we get further into the global pandemic, we are finding more and more medical items on our beaches. More PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are showing up on beaches and bodies of water. Indonesian researchers have found that 16% of medical waste is comprised of the total garbage that floats in rivers and oceans.

As 14 billion pounds of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year, we should help reduce that amount even if you might wonder, “Will helping clean up trash at a beach cleanup really make a difference to the 14 billion pounds of existing trash?” The answer is yes, even the smallest difference will help. We find even the smallest of candy wrappers or pieces of styrofoam takeout containers to the largest things like ropes or construction materials.

The benefits of participating in a beach clean up

Whether it is your first beach cleanup or your fifth, beach cleanups are worth taking even if it’s five minutes out of your day when you walk by the beach. From my past experience, I have always found that beach cleanups are a way to give back to the environment especially when surrounded by plastic use on a daily basis. In the past, beach cleanups were a way to stop adding more trash from being carried by the tide and into the ocean which would harm marine animals. In the past, we were able to go with friends, volunteer groups, family, etc., in order to help pick up trash that got stuck within the sand or that were washed up by the tide. As plastic continues to wash up and pile up on our shores, it’s important that we begin to help reduce those numbers from officially stopping our enjoyment of our beaches and even possibly restricting our future visits to the beach.

If we can continue to clean the beaches, everyone who wants to go there does not have to be worried about constantly seeing trash wherever they walk. Even if you can’t go to the beach every weekend or whenever you can, you can always go when you have spare time within the month or when you can, with family or friends. Even the smallest trash you help pick up can help the ocean and the marine creatures. And if you might not be able to go to the beach at all, you can always use reusable materials for food, home-related materials, even work-related materials can be used with reusable equipment. The benefits of cleanups are that anyone can do it for free and help the environment as they do it. They don’t require experience but they require you to get your hands dirty.

Even if we don’t realize, trash is constantly washing up on our shores and this is problematic for the wildlife because we don’t know how much of that trash has already been picked up by animals. Cleanups help prevent further animals from consuming even more trash that will harm animals and in turn, harm humans. “How can they harm humans?” You might ask? Well as most of us eat fish or seafood, we might not realize that there are microplastics in the ocean that have already been ingested by marine creatures that we eat. As many marine creatures have a diet of plankton, marine creatures cannot distinguish microplastics and phytoplankton. Slowly, due to the food chain, smaller fish are eaten by bigger fish and we eat fish like bass, tuna, salmon, etc., that eat smaller fish and we, in turn, are eating microplastics that are invisible to the human eye.



If we can continue to clean the beaches, everyone who wants to go there does not have to be worried about constantly seeing trash wherever they walk. Even if you can’t go to the beach every weekend or whenever you can, you can always go when you have spare time within the month or when you can, with family or friends. Even the smallest trash you help pick up can help the ocean and the marine creatures. And if you might not be able to go to the beach at all, you can always use reusable materials for food, home-related materials, even work-related materials can be used with reusable equipment. The benefits of cleanups are that anyone can do it for free and help the environment as they do it. They don’t require experience but they require you to get your hands dirty.

As we continue to stay at home for work and education, the amounts of trash that we are using increases and that can also push more trash to wash up onto the beaches or be dumped around our beaches and/or streets. Working from home also pushes us to go out less, so when going out to the beach on the weekends, take time to pick up that trash that has been bothering you for a few minutes, sitting there, covered in sand and ocean water, the sun reflecting off its unbreakable exterior.

But what if you’re too busy on a daily basis to even go to the beach? Can you still help pick up trash without taking too much time out of your day to help? Absolutely.

Here are two amazing solutions to how you can still help clean the beach.
1. Clean up the beach with family and friends

Finding time to do beach cleanups when you are working every day is tough, but you can take a break from work and enjoy time with the family or even with friends to help pick up trash. You don’t always have to pick up trash alone when you’re getting air but you can have a nice time helping save our oceans with people you care about. From past beach cleanups, I have picked up many broken down styrofoam takeout box pieces, which is one of the biggest contributors to the pollution on the beaches. You don’t have to worry about scouting the whole beach for trash, you can always focus on one area and slowly move on. And if you don’t find too much trash and time is not on your side, the trash that you picked up in one sitting still benefits the oceans and the marine creatures. 

Photo by Samfrey Tan

2. Pick up trash as your daily/weekly exercise

Ever since COVID-19, I have found that the only source of exercise I got was a 30 min workout in front of my TV, but, I missed going out, I missed working out at the gym and then walking out to the gust of wind blowing in my sweaty face and feeling the heat bounce off my skin. Even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day and can’t spend much time on the beach, picking up a trash or two and throwing it into the trash can where it should have been helps greatly. And the great thing about doing this is that you’re also getting sun! Taking time to exercise or even walk casually outside on the beach if it is possible for you can help you get Vitamin D that you might find you perhaps lack especially during the time of COVID-19.

Small clean ups, big impacts.

Whether it’s five minutes out of your day or week or even when you’re free, scan your local beach. Don’t worry if other people are giving you weird looks because what you’re doing is helping the environment. and prevent beaches from closing down because of how dirty it is. Know that you’re giving back to the environment after using plastic and that you’re making an effort to provide a safer and cleaner space for everyone, animals and humans alike.

So grab an old plastic bag, some old gloves or plastic gloves, and an old tong that you don’t mind picking up trash with  — or use your bare hands or gloves — to pick up trash and go forth and conquer.

For more information if you are interested in going on your first beach cleanup, check out this links:

Top Tips for a Successful Beach Clean-up, How To Do A Beach Cleanup (While Practicing Physical Distancing),

Beyond the beach clean-up,

Beach Cleanup Tips and Ideas,

Singapore Beach Cleanup: How to Organize Your Own and Teach Kids to Go Green.

#CleanOn 2020 International Coastal Cleanup by Ocean Conservancy

 

Article written by Seastainable contributor Veronica Chen


1 comment


  • Martha Began

    Veronica, thank you for writing about how we can do our parts by beach cleaning every time we go to the beach – picking up plastic off the beach does not have to be a major event – we can and should do it as a habit. You are a fabulous writer, Veronica! Keep it up!


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