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COASTSWEEP 2020 - COVID-19 Notice

Important information on this year's beach cleanups.

COASTSWEEP is the annual statewide beach cleanup sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). Cleanups are held in September and October as part of the International Coastal Cleanup organized by The Ocean Conservancy.

CZM’s top priority is to ensure the safety of COASTSWEEP volunteers, and COVID-19 poses significant new challenges for the 2020 cleanup. Below is a list of issues followed by recommendations and requirements for addressing them, along with additional COASTSWEEP safety and cleanup instructions.

CZM thanks all of our COASTSWEEP volunteers for their enthusiasm and commitment. Please be sure to put your health and safety first so we can enjoy many years of COASTSWEEP to come!


Each year, CZM provides COASTSWEEP cleanup coordinators with gloves, garbage bags, pencils and data cards, and other cleanup supplies. Because of the current shortage of disposable gloves, however, CZM is not providing cleanup supplies for 2020.

Local cleanup coordinators may still hold small cleanups if they have adequate materials or can ensure that volunteers provide their own. Please note that each participant must provide their own face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the following items are needed:

  • Disposable gloves or gloves that can be properly sanitized after use
  • Sufficient hand sanitizer for all volunteers
  • Trash bags (CZM may be able to supply trash bags. Please email to ask about bags. If available, please allow at least 3 weeks for shipping.)

Cleanups with Household Members Only

One option for conducting a COASTSWEEP 2020 cleanup is to go out and clean a beach with members of your household. This approach significantly reduces the potential to spread COVID-19 and poses the fewest logistical difficulties. If you are conducting this type of cleanup, please still be sure to follow appropriate face covering and social distancing guidelines for outdoor public spaces, as well as reviewing and appropriately addressing the other issues listed below.

Cleanups with Small Groups of Volunteers with Strict Pre-Registration

At this time, under Phase 3 of the Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 reopening plan, cleanups and other land stewardship activities can be conducted with appropriate safety precautions, including limiting group sizes to less than 12 participants. Please be sure to check the status of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan on the day of the cleanup for any changes to these requirements. The following guidelines should be followed for small cleanups:

  • Contact CZM - To volunteer as a cleanup coordinator for 2020, please email with the date and location of your proposed cleanup before proceeding with the items below. CZM will contact you about any date conflicts, and can help you address potential issues.
  • Approval from Property Manager - Choose a cleanup location that is “open” according to local/state guidelines where social distancing is easy to achieve. Contact the property manager to get permission to conduct a cleanup well in advance of the cleanup date. For state beaches, email CZM at for the appropriate contact at the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). (Please note that for cleanups at DCR properties, all children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.) While contacting the property manager, also discuss procedures for handling potentially hazardous materials. See “Hazardous Items” below.
  • Pre-Event Registration - Cleanup volunteers must properly register to ensure capacity limits are achieved and that volunteers are aware of requirements. Onsite registration cannot be offered. See the following bullet for the procedure for state beaches. For other beaches, please complete the online COASTSWEEP Volunteer Release Form and submit the completed forms with electronic signatures for each volunteer to CZM before the cleanup.
  • Cleanups on State Beaches - Once DCR approves the cleanup, participants must submit an online COASTSWEEP Volunteer Release Form for DCR Beaches to CZM. The form must be completed and submitted online with an electronic signature at least 24 hours before the start of the event. Arrangements with on-site DCR staff for the removal of trash bags and other collected debris must also be made well in advance. Contact information will be provided by CZM. Furthermore, DCR reserves the right to end any land stewardship activities on DCR property early if participants and organizers are not adhering to guidelines or for any other reason.
  • Health Check Before Cleanup - On the day of the cleanup, have volunteers conduct a self-checker test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ( Do not allow volunteers exhibiting symptoms to participate. Also, volunteers should inform cleanup coordinator if symptoms develop or they test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after cleanup. (Cleanup coordinators, please inform CZM of any participants that test positive by emailing We will be in touch with further instructions.)
  • Group Size and Social Distancing - All social distancing and group size guidelines must be followed. Groups are limited to 12 or fewer individuals, including participants, staff, and instructors. There may be more than one group of 12 people at one time, provided that adequate social distance and group separation of at least 20 feet can be maintained. Participants must also adhere to social distancing guidelines of at least six feet between individuals.
  • Face Coverings and Gloves - All volunteers must wear face masks or facial covering and gloves to participate.
  • Other Equipment - Disposable bags and gloves should be used to limit potential to spread COVID-19 from shared materials. If other equipment (such as trash grabbers), tools, and materials are used, they should be disinfected before and after use in accordance with using CDC Guidelines (PDF, 242 KB). Furthermore, participants should not share equipment, tools, or other materials.
  • Cleanup Duration - The cleanup should not exceed two hours on any given day.
  • Hand Sanitizer - Alcohol-based sanitizer must be on-site and available for participants to use.
  • Food and Drink - Any food and drinks should be brought from participants’ homes and not shared with individuals outside of one’s household.

Marine Debris Collection

Be aware that trash and other materials on the beach could have been handled by someone who may have COVID-19. Consequently, use gloves when handling any material and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

After the cleanup, carefully remove and dispose of gloves (if disposable) and wash hands thoroughly. If no soap and water are available, use hand sanitizer. Finally, sanitize any gear used (grabbers, reusable gloves, buckets) using CDC Guidelines (PDF, 242 KB).

Trash Disposal

Develop a plan to properly dispose of collected trash well in advance of the cleanup. Discuss disposal options with property manager. DO NOT dispose of trash bags in full or overflowing trash cans. It may be necessary to bring collected trash home for disposal with your household waste. If so, properly sanitize any areas the trash has come into contact with using CDC Guidelines (PDF, 242 KB).

Data Collection

This year, data cards and pencils will not be used to collect data to help prevent any potential spread of COVID-19. Instead, please use Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell mobile application if possible, which is available for Apple and Android phones. Just search for “Clean Swell” in the App Store or on Google Play to download. Please make sure to “Allow” locations services while using the app. Also, make sure all volunteers use same group name that begins with “MA-CZM.” Once cleanup is completed, review and submit data to Ocean Conservancy. You should see “Thank You” screen.

Additional COASTSWEEP Safety Precautions and Cleanup Instructions

A variety of additional safety protocols and instructions must be provided to all COASTSWEEP volunteers.  See below.

General Safety

  1. Work in teams, with one person collecting the trash and other marine debris and the other collecting data. All children must be supervised by an adult.
  2. In addition to gloves, wear closed-toe shoes at all times and wear adequate clothing and sun-block to prevent sunburn.
  3. Avoid over-exertion, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. Come in early at the first sign of fatigue.
  4. Do not lift anything too heavy—when in doubt, do not try.
  5. Do not touch or pick up animals—alive or dead. Additional information on marine mammals and sea turtles is provided below.
  6. Stay off dunes to prevent erosion and trampling of beachgrass and other vegetation (and to avoid poison ivy).
  7. Beware of broken glass, rusty items, and other sharp materials. Handle with extreme care or treat as a hazardous item (see below).
  8. DO NOT touch any hazardous items. (See below.)

Hazardous Items

When contacting the site manager to get approval for the cleanup, discuss where to leave collected trash and determine who to contact if any hazardous items are found. Have this contact information available at the cleanup if needed. (If you are having difficulty identifying the site manager, contact the city or town clerk who should be able to direct you appropriately. The person or department in charge of beaches or other shoreline areas may include public works, parks and recreation, boards of health, and harbormasters. Personnel responsible for handling hazardous materials may not be the site manager, but they can direct you to the responsible authority. If you need further assistance, contact CZM’s Robin Lacey at or (617)-626-1220.)

The following materials are potentially hazardous and SHOULD NEVER be handled by volunteers or local cleanup coordinators. Volunteers should notify the local cleanup coordinator if they find one of these items, and the local cleanup coordinator should mark the area and contact appropriate trained personnel.

  • Syringes/needles
  • Metal drums
  • Potentially live fireworks
  • “Bottle bombs” (Common household chemicals mixed in plastic bottles can generate a chemical reaction that causes the bottle to explode. Capped plastic bottles with liquid inside [typically brown liquid, sometimes containing bits of aluminum foil or other objects] are potentially hazardous.)

What to Pick Up

Only collect human-created items (plastics, metal, glass, food packaging, cigarette butts, etc.). Please do not pick up any intact commercial fishing gear (see below). Sewage treatment disks can be picked up, but use gloves. Natural debris (seaweed, kelp, driftwood, etc.) is part of the natural system and should be left in place. Avoid disturbing plants and animals. Do not touch any of the hazardous items discussed above (syringes/needles, metal drums, potentially live fireworks, and potential “bottle bombs”).

Stranded Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles

If you find any stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, or sea turtles (dead or alive), please immediately call the appropriate Massachusetts stranding response agency listed below. Seals on the beach can be a normal occurrence. If seals have any obvious injuries, gunky eyes, or seem underweight, call the appropriate marine animal rescue agency below. For more information, see the New England Aquarium Marine Animal Rescue Program website at:

For Sea Turtles Only

  • Boston north to the New Hampshire/Maine border - New England Aquarium 24-hour Sea Turtle Rescue Hotline at (617) 973-5247
  • South Shore, Cape Cod, and the Islands - Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary at (508) 349-2615 x6104

For Seals, Dolphins, or Whales

  • Salisbury to Essex - Seacoast Science Center at (603) 997-9448
  • Rockport to Plymouth  - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at (866) 755-6622
  • Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts - International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at (508) 743-9548
  • Martha’s Vineyard - NOAA at (866) 755-6622
  • Nantucket - Mammal Alliance Nantucket at (833) 667-6626

Once these response agencies receive your call, they may dispatch field volunteers to collect valuable data. If you need to leave a message, please leave your name, phone number, the type of animal and the condition, and a good description of the location the animal can be found. Thank you very much for your assistance.

Fishing Gear

If you find intact fishing gear (such as lobster pots or buoys), or fragments of fishing gear that contain identification numbers, do not remove the gear. Instead, note any identification numbers and report them to the Massachusetts Environmental Police Dispatcher (“MEP”) at (617) 626-1650. If you find fishing gear debris with no identification number that is clearly damaged beyond use as fishing gear, such debris may be removed and disposed of or recycled. Examples include fragments of gear, frayed rope, or a rusted wire trap that is smashed beyond salvage. If you are in doubt about whether fishing gear debris is salvageable for use in fishing, contact MEP as described above.