How to do a Serious, Scientific

Beach Litter Survey and Clean-up

Things you need to organise in advance

  1. Establish your research site. To be scientifically meaningful, and to enable other classes of students to survey the same place in the future and determine changes, you must mark the site on a map, record the latitude and longitude of the place, and draw a small local map of the shoreline to be sure others will know exactly where the survey was made.

  2. Plan to repeat the survey on a routine basis (e.g. 1 day a week or a month) so you can establish patterns and trends in the rubbish.

  3. Prepare the following items and make up a checklist so they are all taken to the shore on the day of the survey:

    Survey Forms with clip boards and pens.

    A supply of bags to put the rubbish in.

    Rubber Gloves

    A snack with drinks

    Sun Lotion, and hats for sun protection.

    Insect Repellent

    A camera
    to photograph the site before and after clean up and any unusual objects.

  4. Divide the group into teams of four people, and give each team a section of the mapped shore to survey. Place markers on the beach to let each team know the limits of their search. Number each section on the map and identify who is on the team surveying it. You should have at least one supervisor for each twenty helpers.

  5. Get the support of local authorities and perhaps local business, i.e. industry, commercial. You can always use extra helping hands and supervisors.

  6. Arrange for disposal of the rubbish you've collected. Rubbish collected on clean ups is usually not suitable for recycling. Be sure there is transport for the collected debris to the rubbish dump, or arrange for a pick-up with your local council.

Checklist of What to Bring On the Day

Remember the check list of things to bring.

Survey forms with clip boards and pens.
A map of the beach with designated survey zones.
A supply of heavy duty trash bags to put the rubbish in.
Rubber or leather work Gloves
A snack with drinks
Sun Lotion, and hats for sun protection.
Insect Repellent
Someone should bring a camera with film (or video) to record activities.

Guidelines for Collectors

Safety First!
Make sure that all helpers:
have their survey sheets and pens
know which area they are going to clean and stay in it
know who their supervisor/co-ordinator is.
know where the rubbish collection point is.

Analysis of the results

Contributing to an International Survey

The Center for Marine Conservation in the United States co-ordinates an international survey of Marine Debris. Island Care and Sea Keepers provides the information from New Zealand.

To participate:

To: Gael Arnold
E-Mail Address:
Subject: Survey Report
##, ##, ## Day, Month, Year (example 23/03/96)
##.## Degrees of Latitude South (Location of Beach)
###.## Degrees of Longitude East (Location of Beach)
#### Number of meters of shoreline surveyed
#### Total number of items Collected
#### Total number of Plastic Items
#### Total number of Foamed Plastic Items
#### Total number of Glass Items
#### Total number of Rubber Items
#### Total number of Metal Items
#### Total number of Paper Items
#### Total number of Wood Items
#### Total number of Cloth Items
## The most abundant single item
## The second most abundant Item
## The third most abundant Item
## The fourth most abundant Item
Location Name of Beach, coastal area or island
City Nearest town or city to study area
Surveyor Name of group or school that did the survey
Contact Name of person to contact
## Street Number
## Post Office Box

Doing something about the trash

The scientific survey and beach clean-up is not an end in itself, but a way of finding out where the litter comes from and convincing people to alter their ways.
When a clear pattern begins to emerge on the types and sources of debris:

Your efforts to make interesting reports will keep people interested and informed on the problems of rubbish in the marine environment. Also, by providing knowledge of your findings, your local community may be encouraged to be more responsible when disposing of refuse. They may also be encouraged to work together as a community by providing further ideas on how best to help bring about a reduction in rubbish entering the marine environment via street litter, storm drains and casual and accidental litter on beaches.

Volunteers Do Count!

Cleaning up the seas is a job for everyone. Nobody likes to see trash on our lovely beaches and nobody wants to kill sea life by entanglement. It is everyone's responsibility to be sure trash, especially plastics that do so much damage and last so long, is properly disposed of.
Data collection helps to convince people the problems are real. It can, if properly presented, change the way people think about the oceans' ability to handle our rubbish!