skip navigation
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Coastal Cleanups
Through several programs, volunteers regularly clean up trash and other marine debris on New Hampshire’s coast and record their findings. The data documents what ends up on the coast and helps determine what pollution laws are working and what outreach tactics may be needed. Results in New Hampshire show that the biggest problems come from picnickers, smokers and recreational or commercial fishers.

coastal cleanup at Hampton BeachHot Topics

Ways to Help

Ways to help include participating in the annual International Coastal Cleanup, Monthly beach cleanups and Adopt-a-Beach Program, all coordinated by the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, a New Hampshire Seacoast-based nonprofit, with NHCP funding. The Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation uses cleanup data results to expand public knowledge of threats to the ocean.

International Coastal Cleanup

Each year in September volunteers gather at local waterways to collect trash and other debris and record their findings as part of an international event sponsored by The Ocean Conservancy.

Work is done on approximately 30 sites along the New Hampshire coast and Great Bay. Items collected on past cleanups include car license plates, a propane tank, and even a love letter. On International Coastal Cleanup Day 2014, 1,121 volunteers removed 2,207 pounds of debris.

In New Hampshire, this annual cleanup is coordinated by the Blue Ocean Society with New Hampshire Coastal Program funding. Funding is used by the Blue Ocean Society to coordinate all aspects of the cleanup, including hiring an intern, purchasing cleanup supplies, like trash bags, data cards and refreshments for volunteers, and the printing and postage costs associated with the coordinator’s handbook, teacher information packet, press packet, and thank you letters.

View the data results from past International Coastal Cleanup Days.

What is Marine Debris?

Marine debris is anything that does not occur in the natural environment, including general litter, fishing equipment and bulky items, like metal, wood and tires. Debris is one of the biggest problems facing marine life, which can ingest or become entangled in it. Debris also degrades important rocky shore and underwater habitats. It can injure humans and cause problems for boaters as well as cause economic losses through its effect on commercially valuable marine species and important tourist areas.

Marine debris comes from both land-based and water-based sources. On land, rivers and streams can carry debris far from its source and out to the ocean. Beachgoers often leave trash and picnic supplies behind. Common land-based debris, like cigarette butts, food wrappers/containers, straws, caps, packaging and other litter can kill marine life if accidentally ingested or fed by parents to their young. This type of unsightly debris also makes visiting the coast less enjoyable for humans.

On the ocean, trash from boats is thrown or blown into the water, posing a risk to other boaters and to marine wildlife and habitats. Lost fishing line and nets, rope and other trash can wrap around fins, flippers and limbs of fish, seals, whales, crustaceans, seabirds and other animals. This can affect their ability to eat, move and care for their young. Other ocean-based debris, like hooks and lures, are unsafe for people walking and swimming along the coast. Learn about decomposition times for common marine debris Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol.

Cigarette butts are the most common item found during beach cleanups in New Hampshire and the country. They are not just unsightly litter; they are also a danger to wildlife, a health hazard to people, and pollutants of our waters and soils. Learn more about why cigarette butts left behind in our coastal watershed are a problem.

Monthly Beach Cleanups

The Blue Ocean Society holds monthly beach cleanups at Jenness State Beach in Rye. Data on the type and amount of debris is recorded and sent to the Ocean Conservancy as part of the National Marine Debris Monitoring Program. The data helps track the types of debris appearing on the beach throughout the year. Each cleanup starts with a Blue Ocean Society staff member presentation on the program, data collection and research efforts, and how collecting debris will help the environment. All supplies are provided through NHCP funding, including latex gloves, trash bags, data cards, pencils, clipboards, drinks and snacks. Cleanups usually take one-two hours.

To find out more information and the beach cleanup schedule, visit the Blue Ocean Society or call (603) 431-0260.


Student, business and nonprofit groups as well as families and individuals take responsibility for cleaning and recording data on a specific beach. The Blue Ocean Society holds an initial orientation session for volunteers at the first cleanup and is available for consultation throughout the service time.

Groups clean up and record data from their adopted site each month or can also choose to alternate with another group working on the same beach. Regular monitoring helps follow pollution trends on individual beaches in New Hampshire.

Adopt-a-Beach participants receive a handbook outlining responsibilities and the importance of cleaning up debris. An Adopt-a-Beach sign with the name of the group will also appear at the cleanup site to help raise awareness and appreciation. The program offers the opportunity to build morale within the group and provide a visible presence in the community.

Adopt-a-Beach sites include Wallis Sands, Sawyer’s Beach and Foss Beach. Through NHCP funding, training and supplies are provided to volunteers by the Blue Ocean Society.

To find out more information and what beaches are available for adoption, visit the Blue Ocean Society or call (603) 431-0260.

National Marine Debris Monitoring Program (NMDMP)

The NMDMP is a scientific study at 180 sites nationwide to reveal trends in marine debris and identify the major sources of debris. Sites are monitored monthly. To qualify for the NMDMP, a cleanup site must be at least 500m long, of sandy or small gravel composition, and accessible to debris floating in from the sea. Currently, two of the Blue Ocean Society’s cleanup sites, Wallis Sands State Beach and Jenness State Beach are part of this program.



Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol Adobe Acrobat Reader format. Download a free reader from Adobe.

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

copyright 2017. State of New Hampshire