Clean Ocean Action

COVID-19 Protocols for Beach Sweeps Volunteers

Updated 8/26/2021

*Please note: COA’s Beach Sweeps COVID-19 protocols were developed to comply with state guidelines and CDC recommendations. These protocols are subject to change to ensure they are in accordance with state guidelines and CDC recommendations. This page will be updated as necessary.*

Before the Beach Sweeps

  • Volunteers are required to pre-register for their selected Beach Sweeps location at 
  • Volunteers must complete the registration individually. By registering individually, each volunteer can sign the required waiver electronically. It also provides COA with the necessary contact info to notify volunteers of any changes or cancellations.
    • Parents/legal guardians must register and sign the waiver on behalf of minors (under age 18).
    • Members of a family, as well as each member of a group, must register individually. 
  • Volunteers are encouraged to participate in the Beach Sweeps with family members, household members, and small social groups. Groups of 2-3 are ideal. Volunteers that attend on their own will not be paired with other volunteers, as has been done in the past. They will need to participate as an individual.


Day-of the Beach Sweeps

  • Volunteers are reminded not to attend the Beach Sweeps if they have been exposed to the virus in the last 14 days and/or if they are experiencing a fever or any other COVID-19 symptom(s).
  • Regardless of vaccination status, volunteers are required to be six feet apart at all times, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners. Masks are recommended when social distancing is not possible.
  • At some locations, volunteers may be asked to have their temperature taken, using a non-contact infrared thermometer.
  • Volunteers must be registered to participate in the Beach Sweeps. If you have not registered in advance, you will be asked to register via your phone upon arrival to the location, which includes completing an electronic waiver. Beach Captains will ask to see your confirmation email as proof of on-site registration. Family members and group members must register individually. 
  •  Volunteers are asked to arrive at their selected Beach Sweeps location at their selected arrival time (9:00 am or 10:00 am) to check in with the volunteer Beach Captain on site. While waiting to check in, volunteers are required to maintain social distancing (6 feet) and masks are recommended.
  • Do not pick up anything that makes you uncomfortable. Volunteers are neither required nor expected to pick up COVID-19 related debris, or any other potentially hazardous debris. Please alert your Beach Captain to any safety concerns during the event.
  • Beach Captains will supply the following cleanup materials: trash bags, recycling bags, data cards, and pencils. A large (not individual) bottle of hand sanitizer will be provided in the registration area.
  • Volunteers are welcome and encouraged to bring their own materials to reduce surface contact between themselves and the Beach Captains. Bring your own bucket for trash collection to eliminate the need for a plastic trash/recycling bag. Volunteers may also download the data card from the COA website, print it (legal size paper recommended) and bring it with them to the Sweep.
  • The following will NOT be supplied: masks, gloves and refreshments (including water). Volunteers should bring their own masks, gloves (reusable work/garden gloves are recommended), water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and individual hand sanitizer.  
  • “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Bucket): Volunteers are encouraged to bring a bucket for trash collection, which helps reduce the use of plastic trash bags, and also reduces surface contact.
  • When the cleanup is finished, volunteers should return to the check-in area to return their completed and tabulated data card to the Beach Captain. Please follow Beach Captain instructions as to where trash and recycling bags should be placed.



Q:When is the next COA Beach Sweep?

A: Our Beach Sweeps take place, rain or shine, on one Saturday in April and October from 9:00 am-12:30 pm. Dates for the following year are determined during the summer of the previous year. For 2021, the dates are Saturday, April 17 and Saturday, October 23.


Q: How do I select a Beach Sweeps location?

A: The Beach Sweeps occur at 60+ locations, primarily along the NJ shoreline at the same time on the day of the event, unless otherwise noted. Select a site from the the list of cleanup locations, then simply register at and attend!


Q: Who can participate in the Beach Sweeps?

A: Volunteers of all ages are welcome to participate in the Beach Sweeps. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Only registered volunteers can participate.


Q: What time does the event start and end? Is it required that I attend for the entire time?

A: Check-in for participants will begin at two times: 9 am and 10 am. Arrival time is selected by volunteers when completing the registration form. The event ends at 12:30pm. We encourage participants to stay as long as they can, but there are no time requirements.


Q: What do I have to do to prepare for a Beach Sweep?

A: Prior to the event date, online registration is required. On the day of the event, be sure to wear comfortable, sturdy walking shoes and dress according to the weather conditions. Bring your own gloves and a reusable water bottle. Volunteers are also encouraged to bring their own bucket for trash collection, as this helps to reduce the number of plastic bags used. All other materials to clean the beaches will be provided.


Q: How can I receive verification of my volunteer hours?

A: On the day of the event, bring any forms with you that need to be signed. If you don't have your own form, you can print COA's Volunteer Hours Certification Letter and bring it with you to the Beach Sweep. Beach Captains will also have extra forms available on site. Before you leave, fill out the form and ask the Beach Captain at your site to sign off on your hours.


Q: What is the data card used for?

A: Clean Ocean Action compiles the data collected by our volunteers from the data cards. We total all of the information and produce an annual report showing the results from the Spring and Fall  Beach Sweeps of each year. The data collected provides a legacy of information that can be used to identify sources of pollution, monitor trends, and discover and promote solutions. This data has been used in legislation to pass bills that will reduce the waste entering our oceans. A recent example is when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently used COA’s data about the enormous amount of cigarette filters collected during COA’s Beach Sweeps to help pass legislation to ban smoking on public beaches and in public parks.


Q: How can I get more involved?

A: There are plenty of ways to get more involved with the Beach Sweeps, plastic reduction, and COA’s other initiatives, including:

·         Learn more about being a Beach Captain!

·         Not 18 years of age yet? Apply to be a Junior Beach Captain!

·         Donate to support the Beach Sweeps and COA’s year-round programs.



Q: Where can I find the online registration form?

A: If registration is open, the online registration form can be found on our main Beach Sweeps page. Registration for the Beach Sweeps typically opens about two months prior to the event (mid-February and mid-August). The registration form will not be available if registration has not yet opened.


Q: Is registration required?

A: Yes, registration is required.


Q: How do I register a group? Does each member need to register separately?

A: Each individual in a group must register separately. When completing the online registration form, you can list your group name in the "Group/Organization Affiliation" field.


Q: What can I expect after I register?

A: You will receive an automated confirmation email after submitting your registration form. This email will not specify the location that you registered for, so please take note of your selected cleanup location when filling out the online registration form. All registered volunteers will receive a site-specific email the week prior to the Beach Sweeps.


Q: What if I registered but can no longer attend?

A: You can notify COA of the cancellation by sending an email to


Beach Sweeps Day

Q: What should I bring with me the day of the event?

A:Volunteers are required to bring a mask, gloves (preferably reusable work/garden gloves), and water (refreshments, including water, will not be provided). The cleanup can last for a few hours so it is important that participants are prepared for walking and being in the elements for an extended period of time. Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes, and dress for the weather. To help reduce the number of plastic garbage bags used, volunteers are also encouraged to bring your own bucket for trash collection. It may also be useful to have a small drawstring bag or backpack along with items such as gloves, a reusable water bottle, snacks, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. to make the experience more enjoyable. Most importantly, don’t forget to bring your passion for the ocean and a positive attitude!


Q: What happens when I get to the cleanup location?

A: Each cleanup location has a volunteer Beach Captain who is in charge of the cleanup activities at their site. Volunteers should check in with the Beach Captain upon arrival. Beach Captains will provide participants with a black bag for garbage, a white bag for recycling, and a data card and pencil to use during the cleanup. Gloves are not provided.When you pick up a piece of debris, record the debris in the appropriate spot on the data card, then place the debris into the correct bag (garbage or recycling). While on the beach, please be respectful of the wildlife and avoid walking on the sand dunes. Tally your data card items when you are finished.


Q: Can I bring my dog to the Beach Sweeps?

A: Each municipality has different rules regarding dogs on beaches; Beach Sweeps volunteers are asked to adhere to these rules. COA recommends that volunteers contact the municipality directly to find out if dogs are permitted on the beach. If you do bring your dog to a location where dogs are permitted, please 


Q: What if I find something I am not comfortable picking up?

A:Do not pick up anything that makes you uncomfortable. Please alert your Beach Captain about any issues or safety concerns during the event.


Q: What do I do with my data card and trash bags after I finish?

A: Total all of the items on your data card and enter the total items collected for each item in the box. Then, return your completed data card (front and back) to the Beach Captain. Follow instructions provided by the Beach Captain regarding where to place your garbage and recycling bags. If you brought your own bucket, be sure to dump the contents of your bucket into the appropriate bag (trash or recycling). Be sure to return any additional supplies that the Beach Captain may have provided (gloves, trash pickers, etc.).


Q: Who do I contact for questions on the day-of the Beach Sweeps?

A: In the case of safety emergencies, contact 911 (debris on the beach is not an emergency). For all other concerns on-site, speak to your Beach Captain.

·If you are en route to the cleanup location, there will be instructions on the office answering machine (732-872-0111) as to who to contact with urgent questions, if necessary. However, the most efficient way to receive an answer to a question is by planning ahead and contacting COA before the day of the Beach Sweeps at or 732-872-0111. The Beach Sweeps is a statewide event that requires assistance from all COA staff, so there will not be any staff available to answer phone calls received at the COA office on the day of the Beach Sweeps. Again, it is strongly recommended to ask questions before the date of the event so that COA staff can be of immediate assistance and ensure a safe and enjoyable Beach Sweeps for all.



49 Avenel Blvd.
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Field Office:

Gateway National Recreation Area
Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Voice: (732) 872-0111
FAX: (732) 872-8041

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