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Bring the International Coastal Cleanup to Your Neighborhood

Even during quarantine, you can bring your neighbors together to make a difference for our ocean.

  • Conservation

Since 1986, Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) has empowered thousands of communities in over 100 countries to remove more than 300 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways worldwide. The National Aquarium is proud to coordinate ICC events in Maryland, providing statewide opportunities for communities to consider the impact of pollution on local coastal environments and to take action to stop it.

As Marylanders, caring for our 3,140 miles of coastline is a big task. Every county is home to streams and rivers that feed into the mighty Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This means that any debris you see in your neighborhood, especially lightweight plastic, is just a breezy day away from entering local waters.

While we welcome you to join an organized cleanup effort as part of ICC this September, we know that COVID-19 has changed the way we gather together. Fortunately, getting outside to make a difference for our waterways can be done safely even in these most unusual times by taking just a few simple precautions, and you’ll probably find that your neighbors appreciate the camaraderie and community spirit to be found in accomplishing something important together. Follow these steps to activate your community this September with your own ICC event.

Mother and Daughter Picking Up Trash at a Fort McHenry Field Day
The National Aquarium engages hundreds of volunteers annually in removing debris from local shorelines and waterways.

Take a Look Around

Use a critical eye to figure out an immediate problem you can address with some goodwill and human power. Is there a park nearby that could use some TLC? A stream littered with bottles and wrappers? A median where trash always seems to gather? Start to plan by picking a site.

Work Your Network

Reach out to neighbors and local business owners to gauge their interest and abilities. A small core group can help you establish a goal and select a date.

Make a List

What equipment or materials will you need? Trash bags, rakes, ladders and hoses might be simple enough to source, but think about whether you have larger concerns like dumpsters or trucks for transporting bulky items. To keep individual participants safe, everyone should plan to supply their own gloves and masks. You’ll want to have some hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes on hand as well.

Pick Up the Phone

Some municipalities will help complete these types of projects. Contact your local representatives or public works department for more information. Also, think about whether your local dump or recycling center is accessible, open during quarantine and available to handle what you clean up.

Take It Online

Use community email lists or chat groups to spread the news. Ask people to indicate their interest or availability using a site like Providing a fixed number of volunteer slots during set time windows will guarantee that you don’t end up with too many volunteers at once, which can make social distancing difficult. Even outdoors, it’s important to consider how many helpers your space can accommodate at a time with six feet of distance between them. Too much interest? Consider adding a second day or additional time slots. Now is also the time to tell your fellow volunteers what tools or supplies they will need to keep everyone safe and busy.

Get Out There!

On the day of your clean-up event, put on your mask, roll up your sleeves and bring your enthusiasm and positivity! Designate a registration space to make sure volunteers check in, keeping the population of your workforce at COVID-appropriate levels. If you are offering multiple time slots, make sure someone is keeping track and will thank your first shift for coming before welcoming the next group, leaving time to sanitize any shared tools. Spend a few hours hard at work making a difference for your neighborhood and the ocean!

Share the Good News

Keep track of what you collect and share your totals—and gratitude!—via email with everyone who helped out. Celebrate your success by asking others what project they’d like to tackle next!

Tell Us All About It

Email the National Aquarium conservation team at to ask questions, tell us about your plans and share your successes. We’d be happy to know all about your cleanup and the neighborhood warriors that made it happen!

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