When planning a trip to the beach, it's hard to know where to start when trying to reduce your environmental footprint. So many things are made for just one use and are made of plastic! Challenge yourself to try one or more of these suggestions until they become 'new habits':
Reduce What You Bring
Ask yourself, do I really need to bring this on the beach? Be very reluctant to take along things that produce trash that you'll have to hang onto and cart away with you. Try to remember - while you are packing! - just how windy the beach gets and how much of a hassle it can be keeping track of all that loose light weight trash items.
Cigarettes (#1 littered item), and 'smoking' packaging
If you've ever wanted to cut back on smoking, the beach is a great place to start. Leave the pack in the car, and breath easy for a few hours.
Or, bring a homemade ashtray such as a Sucrets, Altoids, or Bandaid metal box.
Or, use a shell to hold your butts while at the beach, then toss the butts in the can and the shell on the beach when you leave.
Or, buy a portable ashtray you can use everywhere and anytime there are no ashtrays nearby.
In all cases, make sure the cellophane and foil from the pack doesn't get away from you and end up as litter.
Avoid drinks with detachable plastic caps (#2 most littered item). Unfortunately, most drink bottles have them, and they are easily misplaced in the sand. Better, try pre-filling reusable bottles (saves $ too), or buy drinks in aluminum cans. They have no caps to lose, and aluminum is one of the most durable and valuable recycling commodities.
Plastic and paper drink cups and lids are frequently left on the beach and quickly become three separate pieces of litter. Make sure they end up in the recycle bin, or trash can if made of styrofoam.
If you have plastic bottles make sure you account for the caps (screw them back on to the bottle) when leaving and toss them in the recycle bin.
Be aware that the straw wrappers and tiny yellow straws on juice packs are frequently littered, so hang on and make sure they get in your trash receptacle!
Straws & Stirrers
Until biodegradable or paper straws become mainstream, it's best to start a new habit of just saying "I dont need a straw, thanks” when you order. And if you grabbed yourself a mixed drink or coffee, or are giving the kids a juice pack, those drink stirrers and tiny straws are littered almost as frequently as regular straws. If you do end up with a straw, secure it in a bottle when you are done with it, and toss in the recycle bin.
You know that corner you tear off a tiny Doritos bag? Pieces of snack wrapping like that are one of the most frequently found items on beach walks. They're super light weight and fly out of your hand or lap at the beach, ending up in the dunes or marsh. Best solution is to bring very little loose plastic to the beach. When opening a snack bag, do it defensively, like in your beach bag where the wind won't rip it out of your hands. Securely place the bag and shards of the bag in your covered beach trash recepticle until you can carefully deposit them in the beach trash can.
Avoid all things made of styrofoam, if you can. Find alternatives to styrofoam coolers! They break easily, and the pieces quickly end up as bird and fish food or are blown out to sea. And it never biodegrades. Styrofoam cups aren't recyclable either. Let's face it: styrofoam is convenient but usually is only used once and then it wreaks havoc on our environment for a very long time. Even the manufacturing process is ranked as one of the most polluting industrial processes. Just don't use it if possible, but if you do, try to reuse it before making sure it ends up in the trash can.
Most of the microplastic - small fragments of hard plastic on the beach - comes from broken and discarded beach toys that are left behind. Please take all plastic with you off the beach and toss it in a recycle bin. Best solution is to buy a few, high quality beach toys and keep them in storage at home until that trip to the beach.
Baggies and plastic bags
More light weight items that fly away easily. Handle them defensively and make sure to anchor them in your trash recepticle until you can dispose of them properly. Bring a reusable bag or container for your snacks, and use it as your temporary trash receptacle while out on the beach.