Mar 24, 2016

Impromptu Beach Cleanup

Casino Beach at Pensacola Beach
A couple of weeks ago on my day off I decided to hold an impromptu beach cleanup. It was a beautiful day and I just needed to feel the sand between my toes and the sun on my skin. So I headed down to the beach with my bag and decided I would wander around and pick up whatever trash I could find. I also wanted to see how dirty our beach was. We are known for having beautiful white beaches and were even ranked in the top beaches by Trip Advisor.

The total haul from the day

I wasn’t even out of the parking lot when I started finding trash. However when I first stepped onto the sand I realized that they comb the beach. I was afraid that meant that I wouldn’t be able to find much trash. However walking along the beach up by the dunes I found more than I wanted. I was also struck by how many trash cans there were. They definitely want to make it easy for people to throw away their trash rather than leave it on the beach, but there were many items that you could tell were left or blew away from their owners and didn’t make it into the trash.

All together I spent about an hour and a half wandering down the beach and I made a haul. There were Mardi Gras beads from weeks earlier, over 70 straws, 20 plastic lids, two straps for boards,  various pieces of plastic in different shapes, sizes and colors, and of course some plastic bags. Looking at the haul I was struck by several things.

First, the lack of bags. There are so many plastic bags being handed out, do we really do that great of a job cleaning them up and keeping them off of the beach? No, they just likely are blown away either. Most of the items I picked up had some weight to them so they would bury in the sand or be taken out to sea. The bags I found were up caught in the foliage in the dunes. One strong gust and they would be out in the water and out to sea.

Second, I was shocked by how many straws I found. It makes sense with the number of bars that serve drinks with straws, but I wasn’t expecting to find over seventy! Most of them I found right outside the restaurants themselves. Don’t they have people to help keep their grounds clean? The water was 200 yards away! And apparently there is a video out there of a sea turtle with a straw up his nose and humans helping him to get it out. I don’t want to watch it because people have said it’s graphic, but that’s up to 70 turtles I prevented from having that fate.

Third, I was surprised how difficult it was to tell the difference between plastic and shell. Often the inside of a shell would be smooth and look like a piece of plastic. Once I flipped it over it was easy to see it was a shell, but other times I had to really look to tell it was a shell. If I can’t tell the difference there is no way an unsuspecting marine animal could tell. Obviously this was with white plastic, It was quite easy to notice little bits of blue, purple and yellow weren’t natural. However, fish, drawn to bright colors might mistake the plastic for a tasty treat.

Finally, I was struck by how easy it was. Just go to the beach, wander around and pick up anything that isn’t sand, shell or wood. You don’t even have to go to the beach to help clean the environment, go to a local park or even your own yard and start picking up things that don’t belong. And remember to #skipthebag when out shopping.

Bits of plastic found during beach cleanup


  1. Go girl go. Wish I had a beach close by, but I pick up plastic litter in Saquaro National Park East (Tucson) and on the streets near where I live.

    1. Perfect! Any litter anywhere can cause issues with the animals and the environment. Thanks for doing your part!

  2. What a great idea. Going for a walk in any natural area is such a stress relieving way to get a little fresh air and exercise... Why not make it a better place at the same time? Wishing I had an oceanfront beach to head to, but I could do this right in my own neighbourhood as well.

    1. I almost never go on a walk without picking up something, I like how you phrased it making it a better place. I won't say I pick up every scrap of trash, but if there's a soda can or plastic spoon, I'll at least pick that up. Every little bit helps!