COASTSWEEP, the annual statewide beach cleanup sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), has been cleaning Bay State beaches and collecting data on marine debris since 1987. Behind all of the statistics and cleaner beaches are thousands of amazing COASTSWEEP volunteers. Groups of 2 to 200—made up of co-workers, classmates, clubs, friends, families, and sometimes complete strangers—get together for COASTSWEEP each fall. To learn how to organize or participate in a cleanup, see Volunteer for COASTSWEEP.
To meet some of these volunteers in action, read about their cleanups in their own words.
Quotes from COASTSWEEP Volunteers
“I have been coordinating cleanups for the O’Maley school since 1994. During this year’s cleanup , there was a low pressure system out to sea, and high winds with a 6’ to 8’ swell and it was COLD – not exactly a good beach day, but we had fun! 15 students from the Service, Acceptance, Integrity, Leadership, Success (SAILS) Program, along with the help of some surfers who stopped to help out, picked up 57 pounds of trash from Long Beach in Gloucester. We are all seaside born and bred, so having clean beaches means a lot to us!” –Paula Gray, 8th grade teacher, O’Maley Innovation Middle School, Long Beach, Gloucester
“Our group focused on several of the smaller beaches in Quincy and 30 of us collected 55 bags of trash. I was struck by how much broken glass and how many syringes we collected. Obviously, these are hazardous items that no one wants to find on a beach! We were happy to make the beaches cleaner and safer for all, and plan to organize more COASTSWEEP cleanups next year.” –John McCone, Committee for Clean Beaches, Quincy
“During my experience with COASTSWEEP I realized that this world isn't as technologically advanced as I thought. If we can create a car that runs on electricity, why can't we create plastic bottles that biodegrade faster? I think that COASTSWEEP was one of the most valuable service learning experiences I have ever had. I now look at trash in a different way. It clutters up the entire planet, and it only returns to soil after many years of exposure to the elements. People need to see this pollution for themselves and doing this cleanup clearly made a noticeable difference.” –Will Bucci, Grade 8, Fessenden School, Nahant Beach, Nahant
“Working with COASTSWEEP gave me a kind of push into reality. It helped me realize just how much my generation has to clean up in order to have a safe and healthy planet. I thought of how much litter was on this beach, then all of the beaches in the state, then all of the beaches in the country, and finally all of the beaches in the world. It made me take a different opinion on littering. I used to throw just one gum wrapper on the ground and not think much of it. I now think about how many gum wrappers I have thrown on the ground in my entire life, then multiply that by 7.2 billion and that is how many gum wrappers that would have gotten thrown on the ground in the past 13 years! People in general still think ‘oh it's just one’ but that ‘just one’ builds up over the years and this can and will have a huge effect on our entire planet. The most memorable moment that I had while cleaning up the beach was when I was picking up a big piece of insulation and looked around and saw all of the other pieces of trash spread across the entire beach—it gave me a visual idea of how much is carelessly throw away.” –McQuillen Martinez, Grade 8, Fessenden School, Nahant Beach, Nahant
“During my first COASTSWEEP cleanup, I was amazed to actually see in person the variety and amount of marine debris spread along the beach area, whether it was a candy wrapper here or a fast food bag there. The amount of plastic pieces tucked away in the branches of a bush or underneath a rock really puts such an issue into perspective. There were also several bizarrely strange items, like a rogue couch cushion, a foam block roughly the size of a small desk, and a large, black, wooden cylinder resembling a Cheerio fit for Paul Bunyan. A small sample of items like these made me wonder, what other odd finds are out there waiting to be discovered? In an ideal world, our oceans and beaches would be debris-free, but in the meantime, I look forward to volunteering again next year in the hopes of coming across other interesting finds and doing my part to keep the Massachusetts coast clean.” –Steven Pilis, COASTSWEEP Intern for the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Spectacle Island, Boston
"COASTSWEEP had a profound impact on me. Initially, I was really excited to be going to a beach on a sunny, beautiful day and I was feeling good about helping to clean it up, but I was also secretly hoping to find some sea glass for my collection. And I was not disappointed! But the joy in finding bits of glass on the beach soon turned to shock. The sheer volume of glass on the beach was staggering. By the time we were finished, I was overwhelmed—I had no idea there was so much glass! It was everywhere and all different sizes and all I could think of was little kids running around getting their feet sliced open, animals getting cut or even eating the glass, people getting slivers of glass in their skin just sitting in the soft sand. Wow. It really made me think hard about what I was doing and why any effort I can make to preserve and protect our coastal environment is important. Important for today, but crucial for a tomorrow for our oceans and beaches. Being a part of COASTSWEEP really opened my eyes to the way we take our world for granted. P.S. I went back the next weekend with my family and we gathered more glass." –Emily Duvall, volunteer with the New England Aquarium’s live blue™ Service Corps, Carson Beach, Dorchester