Learn how to run successful beach clean-ups. They're easy community events that people enjoy and can make a difference to your local recreational areas.

Beach clean-ups are an easy community event that people enjoy and can make a difference to your local recreational areas.

When thinking about running a clean-up there are a few steps you can follow to make things flow smoothly on the day.

One month before

Contact your local DOC office, regional council and district council about your event to see if they’d like to be involved

A volunteer loads rubbish into a trailer following a beach clean-up at Onoke Spit, Wairarapa. Photo: Amanda Cosgrove.
Rubbish collected at a beach clean-up

  • Preferably provideas much time in advance of your date so they can make plans to participate if they can.
  • If you ask some councils in advance they may be able to help with landfill fees by either reducing or making dumping costs free. Remember small landfills are only open certain days of the week so you may have to negotiate a different opening time or adjust your clean-up day. You can discuss this with your local council.
Consider involving your local school
  • School groups can work well at beach clean-ups. Contact the principal about the possibility of them joining you for the day. Things to consider are transport, walking distance, food breaks and having enough adult support. They can only help during the week but can always advertise your events in their newsletter.
Contact other groups that participate in beach clean-ups include rotary, lions clubs, Forest and Bird plus many others that may operate in your area 
  • Ask them if they can support you with people and if they can find people who have access to resources like quad bikes and trailers which are great to transport large pieces of rubbish along a beach. 
  • Sometimes if you’re really lucky they might be able to find some money to help with your beach clean-up - this could be used for advertising, landfill fees or sponsoring a BBQ at the end of the day.
Develop a small media plan
  • How are you going to promote your event? Newspaper advertising, short press release, radio advertising, posters, emails, school newsletters, the internet and community noticeboards - those run on the radio and on TV channels such as Living Channel are good options.
  • If you have a limited budget, providing some text and a couple of good photos to local community newspapers can be useful. It’s good to utilise key members of the community who have good contacts and can get people to attend on the day.

One week before

Make sure you have the right equipment.
  • Organise four-wheel drive vehicles and trailers for collection of rubbish. Don’t forget tie-downs or nets to contain the rubbish. 
  • It’s great to have an experienced person to help load and secure rubbish on-board. 
  • You should also bring a supply of gloves and a couple of shovels. 
  • A popular item on beaches is tyres which get buried and you’ll need these dug out.

One day before

Confirm school attendance and other community participants. 
  • Advise them of the weather that they should be prepared for, e.g. suntan lotion, wet weather parkas and gumboots.
Conduct a health and safety briefing. 
  • This should provide information on potential hazards, e.g. the sea, seals, broken glass, and how people should take care. 
  • You should also have a register of names to ensure everyone that starts the clean-up finishes the clean-up (this can be a useful way of collecting contact details for a database if you wish to run future events).
Finalise all equipment for the day.  This can include:
  • First aid kit including sunscreen.
  • Bags - seed bags from factories are very useful. Normally they are free so ask for at least 50 (and don’t throw them away - reuse at your next clean-up). 
  • Your group should consider investing in wool fadges so people can empty their sack into fadges as they go.
  • Radios - you may need to be in contact with others cleaning-up the beach so having portable radios is useful.
  • Handwashing supplies, e.g. soap, water, buckets, antibacterial lotion.
  • BBQ equipment - most volunteers appreciate a sausage and drink of water at the end of a beach clean-up. Things you’ll need include BBQ, full gas bottle, utensils, chilly bin, sausages, onions, tomato sauce, mustard, napkins and someone to cook the food (this should be started about 45 mins before end of clean-up).
  • Tables, chairs and shelter for the end. Allocate someone who is organised to set-up.

DOC Ranger Amanda Cosgrove gives Tinui and Whareama School children a briefing before they start a beach clean up at Castlepoint Scenic Reserve. Photo: S Burles.
Briefing volunteers before starting work

On the day
  • Have someone on-site at least 15 mins before event to speak to volunteers. The speaker needs to welcome everyone and talk briefly about why this beach is special.
  • Run health and safety briefing
    Hand out bags and gloves. 
  • Ensure there is a good ratio of adults to children. 
  • Either have quad bikes or four-wheel drive vehicles in support of walkers. They can drive along the beach and collect large pieces of rubbish which can be taken straight to final base.
  • Take the majority of trailers and vehicles to end where everyone is meeting for BBQ etc.
  • Start BBQ.
  • Take lots of photos for community papers.
  • Have fun.
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