Beach Clean Up
Collective Action

Behind the Scenes: How a Beach Cleanup Turned Into a Photo Shoot

If you’ve been to our website, you’ve seen the incredible photos of some Wild Elements community members plugging back into nature—more specifically, the natural splendor of Playa Manubo, a quartz sand beach off the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico.

What you’re not seeing? A ton of trash, including plastic bottles, broken glass, and cigarette butts. The beach was also covered in decaying sargassum, a type of seaweed that’s great in the ocean, but can cause “bad blooms”—unsafe bacterial breeding grounds that spread toxins — when left to rot on the shore. (This phenomenon is becoming more common in the Caribbean Sea.)

Before Beach Clean Up

When we got to the beach, here's what we knew:

  • Coastal marine habitats make up 10% of the world’s ocean areas, but contain an astounding 90% of all marine life. That means healthy beaches are vital to biodiversity.

  • Spending time near a body of water can help boost creativity and lower stress.
  • A beach cleanup—followed by a proper beach hang—means we boost personal and planetary wellness all at once… and stay active, have fun, marvel at the beach wildlife, and get some TikTok footage, because we contain multitudes.

By removing plastic waste from the beach, we helped clear the way for leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles, two native animals that are deeply affected by ocean pollution with nesting grounds on Playa Manubo.

After Beach Clean Up

Want to plan your own beach cleanup? Here’s what you need:

Reusable construction or kitchen gloves

Compostable trash bags

Reef-safe sunscreen

Harm-free bug spray (that you can make yourself)

• Drinking water + snacks

• A sun hat or visor

• A portable speaker with music

• Your friends

Put on your sunscreen, pull on your gloves, and start by sorting the trash into compostables (i.e. apple cores, orange peels), recyclables (i.e. plastics, glass, and paper), reusables (i.e. discarded flip flops, leftover beach umbrellas), and waste (like cigarette butts).

Make it easy on yourself by mapping out your nearest disposal sites ahead of time, and securing all trash in sealed bags. If you encounter a nesting habitat for birds or turtles, do not go near it! (If it’s covered in trash and the animals appear to be suffering, alert the nearest beach patrol or reservoir staff, and only take action when directed by experts.) And of course, make sure everything you take onto the beach gets taken off the beach… including your phone charger. (Let’s just say we’ve been there.)

Have you done a beach cleanup recently? Email us or DM us and let us know what you learned from the experience.

1Science Direct

2 Blue Health

3 Science Direct

Collective Action