Beach Clean up with Zero Waste Chicago

Cool things are happening in Chicago, and the creation of Zero Waste Chicago is one of them.

They host monthly events and this month they asked me to lead a beach clean up since I am an Adopt-A-Beach Team Leader. (Check out my other clean up posts here, here, here, and here.)

We headed down to 31st Street Beach, a beach I have not been to or cleaned up before.

31st street beach

For a Tuesday night, it sure was hopping. Families were out barbequing and kids were splashing in the water, trying to squeeze the last few days of summer before back to school.

31st street beach2

A great crew of volunteers showed up and spread out all over the beach armed with bags and litter monitoring surveys.

31st street beach3

Overall, we collected 35.66 lbs of trash, recycling, and compost!

31st street beach4

Some highlights:

  • 609 cigarette butts
  • 221 food wrappers
  • 200 pieces of plastic
  • 135 metal bottle caps
  • 110 pieces of foam
  • 94 pieces of glass
  • 69 balloons
  • 56 pieces of paper
  • 54 plastic bags
  • 46 straws
  • 18 band-aids
  • 7 hair ties
  • 1 razor
  • 1 tampon
  • 1 condom



No Butts About It: 350 Cigarette Butts Later

Yesterday, I participated in another beach clean up at North Avenue Beach. This event was put on by Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program and Barefoot Wine & Bubbly to help make our beaches barefoot friendly.

And were they barefoot friendly? No. 

The amount of broken glass we picked up was startling. Even more startling was the excessive amount of cigarette butts I picked up.

Over 350 cigarette butts picked up by a 2 person team in just over an hour!

While my partner tallied and picked up other types of litter, I focused solely on collecting cigarette butts. I just continued counting and counting as I added more butts to the growing pile in my hand (I was wearing gloves, do not fear).

When we counted up our tally marks to reveal that we had over 300 cigarette butts in our trash bag, I was in shock! There were dozens of other teams too who may have picked up just as many.

In 2015, more than 52,600 cigarette butts were picked up at Chicago beaches, representing 27 percent of total litter found according to Alliance for Great Lakes data.

I just get really sad when I see people using our beaches (and our Earth) as an ashtray.

Luckily, the Alliance is putting a fun spin on properly disposing of cigarette butts.

Read more about their project here.

Beach Cleanup: So Many Straws!

This past week, I attended two beach clean up events. They definitely needed some cleaning if you saw my post about Chicago’s beaches over Memorial Day weekend.

The first clean up was the Alliance for the Great Lakes My Beach is Your Beach Adopt-a-Beach Clean Up at Oak Street Beach. Unfortunately, it was pouring most of the event, but there were still a decent amount of people there! The premise of this event was to pick up a piece of trash and replace it with a flag. In the end, we had a great visual of how much trash was out there.



While the Chicago Park District grooms the beaches on a daily basis, tiny pieces of litter are still left behind. This was mainly what we were picking up.

Do not worry, we picked up all the flags afterward!

This morning was Adopt-a-Beach for World Environment Day at Montrose Beach. It was put on by Alliance for the Great Lakes, Goose Island Beer Company, and Delta Institute.

We broke up into groups with gloves, trash bags, a tally sheet. I was in charge of my group’s tally sheet which broke up trash into common categories like food wrappers, small plastic pieces, and personal hygiene products.

Top Things We Picked Up:

  • straws
  • bottle caps (metal & plastic)
  • unidentified plastic pieces
  • cigarette butts
  • wrappers
  • glass

Really Random Things We Picked Up:

  • a slap bracelet
  • a condom
  • half a pair of sunglasses

All in all, we helped pick up 546 pounds of trash! That is amazing! When you looked out at the beach before we started, you wouldn’t have said, wow it is dirty! Everything we picked up was really tiny, and the fact that we had enough tiny pieces to equal 546 pounds is insane.

Chicago’s Beaches Were “Trashed” This Weekend

I bet fellow Chicagoans were enjoying the lovely weather we had here this Memorial Day weekend. When it is nice out and a long weekend, the beaches are packed with people and with garbage!

Here are some images from North Avenue Beach posted by Mike Caplan, Meteorologist at FOX 32. Gross!

trashed beach

trashed beach2

I am just going to let those pictures sink in. A lot of that looks recyclable to me…