The annual global effort to remove trash from beaches and waters around the world is September 16 this year—here’s how you can help, even if you don't live near the coast.

By Lauren Phillips
September 12, 2017
Photo: Christopher Polk/Staff/Getty Images

Every year, millions of people take part in the globe’s largest volunteer effort to protect oceans and coastlines: International Coastal Cleanup Day. In 2017, that day falls on Saturday, September 16. As people on coastlines in the Caribbean and the southern U.S. continue to recover from the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it's still vital to work on behalf of all our coastlines. There are plenty of ways to get involved in the cause—no matter where you live. 

Watch: Long Live the Beach

1. Attend a Cleanup

If you are fortunate enough to live near a coastline, find a planned cleanup nearby! Both the Ocean Conservancy and the Surfrider Foundation have ways to find an event close to you; if there aren’t any planned, organize your own! Removing trash—especially plastic and foam items—from coastlines keep these toxic materials from being drawn into the oceans, harming the ecosystems there, and every effort to remove these items and dispose of them properly counts.

2. Clean Up Around You

If you’re not able to visit a coastline on International Coastal Cleanup Day, you can still help locally. Trash dropped on the ground even away from the water can still find its way to our seas through rivers, streams, and other waterways—or even over land. By cleaning up litter in your area, you keep those harmful items from reaching beaches and oceans, reducing the pollution problem.

3. Reduce Your Waste

This is one you can do no matter where you are, every day of the year: Stop using items, especially plastics, that cause irreparable damage to the oceans. According to the Ocean Conservancy, cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and plastic bottle caps were the top three items collected at last year’s cleanup. More than one million plastic beverage bottles alone were removed from coastlines around the world last year! By avoiding single-use plastic bottles or ensuring they’re properly reused or recycled, you can help lower that number.

4. Turn Trash into Art

Photo: Courtesy of the Surfrider Foundation

This year, the Surfrider Foundation is running its first annual Found Objects photo contest, giving people a chance to show off the items they’ve found on (and removed from) the beach. To enter, first spend a day on the beach picking up trash; then arrange the items in a creative, artistic way, to show off the variety of what needs to be picked up from our shores. With your picture, write a 6-word story describing a memory behind the items or what you and your community are doing to keep items like them off the beach. Post your creation and caption to Instagram, tag @surfrider, and use #SurfriderFound to be entered in the contest! Once you’re done, dispose of your items appropriately (like at a recycling center), or keep them as a new piece of art.