Frequently Asked Questions

What is marine debris and why should I help clean it up?

Marine debris is any man-made object that somehow enters the coastal or marine environment. It may enter directly from a ship, or indirectly when washed out to sea via rivers, streams and storm drains. Types of marine debris include plastics, glass, metal, Styrofoam, rubber, and lost fishing gear and vessels. Land-based sources of marine debris include littering, dumping, poor waste management practices, storm water discharges, and extreme natural events such as the Japan Tsunami.

What is involved in cleaning up marine debris?

First, you have to get to the beach. Along the southern coast, you can generally drive to the area you want to clean and park on or very near the beach. Along the northern coast, you typically park at an established trailhead and then hike to the beach. Some beaches are very close to the road, though often down a steep hill, while others require backpacking skills and miles of hiking to reach. Once you’re on the beach, it’s simple: just collect debris items into the bag we give you and then bring it all back to a designated drop-off location when you’re done.

What kinds of things should I pick up?

You’ll typically see everything from plastic water bottles and chunks of styrofoam to fishing nets, tires, ropes, and other glass and metal objects. Pick up only what you can carry back to the designated pick up location. Never leave any bagged trash on the beach except on southern beaches where noted. You may run across items that are too large or heavy to move; please report these items at the check-in station so staff can make arrangements to remove them at a later time.

What safety considerations should I keep in mind?

Basic Safety Guidelines:

  • Wear gloves, proper clothing, and water-resistant shoes.
  • Do not touch medical waste, dead animals, hazardous materials or sharp objects. If you are uncertain about an item, do not touch it.
  • Do not approach wildlife.
  • Report hazardous items that cannot be removed to event staff.
  • Work with a partner.
  • Be careful of unstable banks, steep slopes, or slippery surfaces.
  • Do not try to lift anything that is too heavy for you. Ask for help!
  • Watch for poison oak, plants with thorns, or other natural hazards.
  • Watch for any trucks or equipment that might be used in the project.
  • When driving on the beach (State Parks only), stay on compacted sand. Do not drive onto high tideland where sand is soft or onto very wet sand areas.

Debris Data Program

Debris data programThe amount and type of debris you find on our beaches gives evidence of its globally diverse sources and its impact on ocean ecosystems. Help us analyze what it all means by participating in our data collection program. If you will be at the cleanup with a group, please download our Debris Data Card and fill out as you clean the beach (also available at check in). One group member should fill out the form while others call out their findings. Or you can download the Clean Swell app and enter data directly into your smartphone.  After the cleanup, please email your data cards to use at Collective results will be available online to anyone seeking to understand and reduce the effects of marine debris.

Do I need to be physically fit?

Not necessarily. The wide, sandy beaches of the southern coast are very appropriate for young people or those looking for an easy stroll on the beach. However, the rocky, remote beaches of the northern coast are more challenging. Be prepared for hiking through damp forests before emerging onto the rugged (but dramatic!) beaches of the north. Watch out for beach logs, changing tides, and slippery rocks.

What clothing should I wear?

We suggest that you come prepared for any type of weather, rain or shine, warm or cold. Rain gear may be needed as well as sun protection. Water-resistant shoes and gloves are an absolute must. Day packs, snacks, and water are also good ideas, especially for long hikes.

For more detailed information on hiking in Washington’s coastal wilderness areas (i.e. within Olympic National Park), take a look at the Park’s helpful trip planner and wilderness regulations.

Do I need any special tools?

Not really, but a sharp knife, wire cutters, hacksaws, and small shovels can come in handy for those more tenacious debris items.

Where should I stay?

There are many good camping options, RV parks, inns, motels, and resorts up and down the coast. See these websites for ideas:

In addition, Olympic National Park waives its campground and wilderness permit fees for those participating in the Washington Coast Cleanup on the Friday and Saturday of the cleanup weekend.

Why are some sections of the coast closed to cleanup activities?

Some sections of coastal lands are closed due to the concerns of the agencies that manage them. Certain areas are very isolated, home to nesting threatened or endangered birds, or are simply too hard to access for cleanup purposes. The Washington Clean Coast Alliance works with all coastal land managers to ensure a safe and productive cleanup, and we respect their wishes.

I’m volunteering in Olympic National Park. Why can’t I bag my trash and leave it on the beach for pick up?

Factors including weather, wilderness values, cost, nesting seasons for birds and wildlife, and staff availability restrict the use of boats and helicopters in trash removal on remote beaches. All trash must be removed by volunteers during the beach cleanup. If trash is collected and left on or near the beach, it becomes an eyesore for other beach users and attracts wildlife such as raccoons and crows that quickly rip open the bags, allowing the wind and waves to re-distribute the trash. Please collect and bag only as much trash as you can safely carry out!

Can I bring my dog?

The rules vary by location:

Clallam County Parks allows dogs Dungeness Recreation Area (but NOT at the Refuge) and at Salt Creek Recreation Areas.

Within the Makah Reservation, dogs are allowed on Hobuck and Sooes Beaches.

Within Olympic National Park, dogs are not allowed on the remote, wilderness beaches. However, dogs are allowed at the following frontcountry locations within the Park: 1) from the Rialto Beach parking lot about 1/2 mile north to Ellen Creek and 2) at all beach access points between the Hoh Indian Reservation southward to Quinault Indian Reservation (which includes Ruby Beach, Beach 6, Beach 4, Kalaloch Campground, Kalaloch Lodge, Beach 2, Beach 1, and South Beach). Dogs in these locations must be leashed at all times, and pet waste must be immediately collected and placed in the nearest trash receptacle.

Dogs are allowed on Grenville Beach.

At the State Parks locations of the southern beaches (i.e. from Moclips Beach southward), dogs are permitted, but must be leashed at all times. Pet waste must be immediately collected and placed in the nearest trash receptacle.