Coastal Cleanup Events

group of people standing with park ranger all holding trash bags
Coastal Cleanup Day - Channel Islands National Park

NPS Photo

Our beaches and coastal areas are valuable resources that support a diverse range of animals and plants, and contribute to the health of ocean and lake ecosystems by providing protection from weather and erosion. Unfortunately, these areas have become cluttered with thousands of pounds of garbage that threaten their health and the lives of the animals that live in them. Most of this trash – items like plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bags, and six-pack rings - originates in land-based areas and travels through drains and down rivers to reach our shorelines and lake and ocean waters, becoming what is known as marine debris.

This debris can have many harmful effects on the ocean or lake environment. Large objects like abandoned fishing gear can smother and thus severely damage ocean habitats, such as coral reefs, and the animals that live in them. Animals like seals or shorebirds can easily find themselves entangled in plastic debris or mistakenly ingest it, leading to their death by starvation or by choking. Marine debris can also transport invasive species to non-native environments, causing harm to local plants and animals.

You can volunteer your time at a myriad of parks and events to help rid our coastal areas of the trash that threatens them. In 2013, over 50,000 volunteers in California alone collected more than 700,000 pounds of trash and recyclable material, helping to make California beaches safer for the wildlife and human visitors that frequent them. Coastal cleanups are fantastic opportunities in which the entire family can participate and learn more about marine debris. Check with a local coastal park or conservation association to find out more about coastal cleanup events near you.

Keep in mind that safety is a number one priority for cleanup events; gloves are required and many organizations require a waiver form to be signed before a volunteer can participate. Make sure to ask what precautions or legal documentations are necessary before you arrive at the cleanup location.

For Further Reading

Marine Debris

Point Reyes National Seashore Coastal Cleanup Day

Gulf Islands National Seashore Coastal Cleanup Day

International Coastal Cleanup

California Coastal Commission


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Last updated: December 9, 2021


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