Volunteers using reusable bags for beach cleanup

Everything is beachy keen when we keep our beaches clean

We're excited to see so many people out and enjoying state parks during the summer months especially the ones with beaches and access to water. Who doesn't love a beautiful summer day on the sand? We can practically hear the inflation of pool floaties and snapping into place of camp chairs now.

If you enjoy Washington beaches, then you know how important it is to protect them.

Protecting our beaches is a shore way of keeping them safe, clean and fun. There are several ways you can do your part and keep our parks a beautiful place.

Plan ahead

It's always a good idea to be proactive about your adventures – especially when it comes to litter. Did you know that even though 75% of Washington residents say they never litter, 18 million pounds of waste still accumulate on Washington roads, parks and recreation areas every year?

Dog talking about its litter meme

Bringing bags to dispose of your trash – like wrappers, food packaging and disposable wipes can prevent you from accidentally littering and negatively impacting Washington's environment, wildlife, public safety and economy. Many commonly littered items, like plastics and cigarette butts, can leach harmful chemicals into our environment and food chain.


Pick up after your pet

We love to see your pets in our parks! We even have a program (check out Bark Rangers) dedicated to dogs at state parks.

However, when pet waste isn't picked up and properly thrown away, other people and animals could encounter it. That's not just gross, it can also make people, wildlife, plants and aquatic animals sick.


Don't feed the wildlife

Birds, chipmunks, squirrels and other critters aren't too good at personal space when there's food involved. They will often crowd around people who are eating. Feeding wildlife can increase waste on the beach and draw in predators – like ravens and crows, which like to eat snowy plover eggs and nestlings. These little shore birds are already a Washington state endangered species, we must do all we can to protect them, and that includes keeping your food to yourself.

Find the nearest restroom

While our sandy beaches might look a little like your cat's litterbox, you should know it's illegal to relieve yourself on the beach. Protect yourself and others from transmitting bacteria, especially if you have not been feeling well. Find the nearest restroom before it becomes an emergency.

Beaches also hold important wild food, like clams, oysters, and crabs- and no one wants to eat those if human waste is around.


Boaters, don't discharge in the water

While we're on the topic of waste…recreational boaters should only empty tanks in approved disposal facilities. Check out our map of pumpout locations.

Boaters are leaders in keeping our waterways clean. Since 2021, our boating program has funded nearly 140 marine sewage disposal system projects across the state and has prevented millions of gallons of sewage from contaminating Washington's waters. Keeping a clean marine environment is important so everyone can enjoy the beautiful bodies of water across Washington for years to come.


Dispose of fish guts and clean razor clams elsewhere

Anglers, please dispose of fish entrails in designated areas or in the trash. Dumping it into the water disrupts the water's ecosystem, and let's not forget the bad smells.

The Pacific razor clam is one of the most sought-after shellfish in the state. It's not unusual to see thousands of people at the beach during a nice spring weekend because recreational digging is fun for everyone! All you need is a clam shovel, a container to put your clams in and of course, your clamming license. Please wait to clean your clams until after you leave the beach to prevent unwanted predators from overpopulating our beaches and hurting native wildlife.

Plastic contamination is also a serious concern in the beaches' clam beds, not only for the clams but for all aquatic life. Properly disposing of your trash will ensure you are able to continue digging and savoring these important delicious creatures for years to come.

Volunteers carrying garbage to the dumpster
Volunteers carrying trash bags to dumpsters during a beach cleanup

Live litter free and help others do the same

According to 2021 research commissioned by the Washington State Department of Ecology, about 26% of litterers say they would be motivated to stop if “a friend, family member, or passenger asked me to refrain.” So, help your friends and family make good choices when it comes to preventing litter. When we all look out for each other, it makes a big difference.

Family helping at the beach cleanup
Family posing with all of the garbage they collected during a beach cleanup volunteer event

Participate in our beach cleanups

In partnership with Washington CoastSavers, State Parks puts on three beach cleanup volunteer opportunities a year – and there's always work to be done. Over the last three beach cleanups, volunteers picked up over 50,000 pounds of trash off our beaches.

Special thanks to the Washington State Department of Ecology for funding this year's dumpsters and cleanup supplies.

If everyone does their part, we can keep Washington litter free. Learn more from our partner, Washington State Department of Ecology, at LitterFreeWA.org.

Originally published July 01, 2022

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