Home » How to Help » Coastal Cleanups

Coastal Cleanups

You can help keep Casco Bay clean.

By volunteering to clean up trash along our streets, public spaces, and coasts you can help protect wildlife, collect data for marine debris research and advocacy efforts, support the local economy, and keep our shores cleaner and safer. 

There are three ways to take part in cleanups with Friends of Casco Bay:

  1. Gather your coworkers or group to volunteer with us at Friends of Casco Bay. Learn how here
  2. Host your own cleanup using our guidance below. Make sure to track what you pick up. 
  3. Sign up to be notified when we host public cleanups. Once or twice a year we host a cleanup open to everyone. Sign up as a volunteer to be notified of these events. 

Host your own cleanup

Gather family or friends for your own cleanup. It is easy to organize a cleanup. Below we have resources to get you started. By choosing a location, bringing along gloves and trash bags, and downloading Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell mobile app to help gather marine debris data, you will be well on your way to helping clean up the marine environment. 

As an additional benefit, the data you record will be used to advocate to reduce pollution in our coastal waters.

How to implement a cleanup

Take precautions

Select a Location

  • Identify the area for your coastal cleanup. You may consider an area where there is a lot of large litter, but remember that tiny pieces count. Simply removing trash along your neighborhood streets and sidewalks keeps it out of storm drains and Casco Bay.  Parks and other areas heavily used by people are great locations. Consider asking for suggested locations from your sustainability, parks, or municipal public works departments.
  • Think about how you’ll dispose of the trash. While talking with public works, ask where you can bring the trash once it is bagged or inquire if they’d be willing to pick it up from your cleanup site.
  • Be sensitive to the ecosystem. Stay away from areas that might be damaged by heavy foot traffic. Also, be mindful of any protected areas.


Make a supply checklist, be sure to consider:

  • Gloves are essential, have you facemask on hand as well
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Trash bags
  • Water/snacks
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Sturdy/Closed toed shoes and other weather appropriate attire
  • Kitchen tongs that you use only for cleanups (grabber/reacher tools are even better), necessary for picking up broken glass or other concerning waste.
  • Smaller bags and a box or study sealable bottle. Broken glass or anything with sharp edges should be placed in a bag, then in a bottle or box, and labeled as sharp before being tossed.
  • Be extra careful with anything that could be a biohazard. Depending on the location, we sometimes find a lot of sharps/needles. If you happen to find them, report their location to the local police for pickup. Same with anything else of concern.
  • Prepare your phone to help us track PPE and other pollution using the Clean Swell mobile app. Be sure to download it in advance.
    • Be sure to “Allow” location services while using the app.
    • Create your own account or use the username: volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org and the password: cascobay.
    • Either way, be sure to enter the date, the number of people in each individual group (adding them up should equal the total group number), and
      set the group to Friends of Casco Bay.
      • Note: be sure to click the “Done Collecting” button at the end of you cleanup or all your data will be lost.

If you need help obtaining supplies, contact us at volunteer [at] cascobay [dot] org or (207) 799-8574. 

Complete your cleanup

  • Collect data using the Clean Swell App using one hand for your phone and one for trash removal.
  • Remember to use your gloves as you pick up trash.
  • Small trash is just as important as the big stuff!
  • Don’t pick up anything sharp and dangerous, such as hypodermic needles. Report it to the authorities instead, being sure to get a photo or describe the location very well.
  • Never handle ammunition or explosives – immediately alert the authorities if these items are discovered during your cleanup.
  • Garbage can be dirty, rusty, slimy, and/or sharp. Be careful when handling trash to avoid cuts and abrasions.
  • Don’t pick up leaky batteries, glass, and chemical containers, even with gloves! Use tongs/grabber/reacher tools that you use only for cleanups.
  • Don’t try to lift heavy objects alone. If you find something too large to remove, let public works know.
  • Never pick up any trash items that you are not comfortable with.
  • Take pictures to document your efforts and tag us on social media. 
  • Sanitize as needed

Dispose of Waste

  • Implement your proper waste disposal plan. Make sure not to over fill containers as that could result in the trash ending up back where it started.


  • After you finish collecting items, carefully remove gloves and wash hands and arms with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Immediately and thoroughly sanitize any gear used during the cleanup including grabbers, gloves, and buckets.

Complete your data collection in the app

  • Follow steps on the Clean Swell app to review and submit your data. Data will be submitted to Ocean Conservancy’s database when you see a “Thank You!” screen.

Trash is an unsightly blight that makes it hard for everyone to enjoy a special place like Casco Bay. Litter and marine debris on our shores come from many sources. Careless beach goers, boaters, fishing vessels, and other ships can leave trash behind. Stormwater washes trash from yards and parking lots into storm drains that empty into Casco Bay.

You can learn more about joining us as a volunteer here.

When you volunteer to help us with a cleanup, you are:

  • Collecting data on the types and size of materials removed
  • The data is then used locally and internationally for marine debris advocacy efforts
  • Making our shores cleaner and safer
  • Ensuring our coast is a place people can go to recreate and relax
  • Helping protect wildlife
  • Supporting the local economy as our coast is part of Maine’s brand; it as an ideal tourist attraction that creates a stream of revenue that supports our community
  • Protecting our quality of life

Items often found during cleanups include:

  • Styrofoam
  • Remnants from lobster traps
  • Plastic: Plastic bags and soda can rings can ensnare wildlife, causing birds and other animals to choke and die. Plastics can break down into tiny particles and be carried far out to sea where they can be ingested by fish, birds, sea turtles, and whales. Once swallowed by an animal, plastic can fill its digestive system, causing it to starve.
  • Syringes: Some waste is a biohazard, such as hypodermic needles, which threaten public health.
  • Cans and bottles
  • Cigarette butts: Cigarette butts, our most common example of litter, are made from synthetic cellulose, which contains many toxic chemicals and takes centuries to degrade.

Read more about coastal cleanups:

10 Ways to Get Ready for Earth Day

April 17, 2024

Earth Day is on Monday, April 22, 2024. Here at Friends of Casco Bay, while every day is an opportunity to advocate for and protect clean waters and healthy… Read more

Our Top 10 Moments of 2023

December 21, 2023

As this year comes to an end, let’s reflect and celebrate the many ways that we worked together to protect the health of Casco Bay… Read more

Coast Week Clean Up | September 9, 2023

August 14, 2023

You are invited to join us on Saturday, September 9th, at 10 a.m for a Coastal Clean up in Harpswell.  Friends of Casco Bay has… Read more

Easy Honey teams up with us for a Eastern Prom Cleanup on July 24, 2023

July 7, 2023

Coastal Cleanup with Easy Honey We are collaborating with the band Easy Honey for a public coastal cleanup as they embark on a Summer Surf… Read more

We are water, we are the Bay

December 1, 2021

Dear Friends of Casco Bay, Gulf of Maine poet Gary Lawless read his poem, “For Casco Bay, for Us,” for the first time to a… Read more

A special Season’s Greetings to you

December 27, 2019

​ Amid the delights and demands of the Holidays, we pause here to thank you and all our volunteers, donors, and supporters. You play a… Read more