Project Aware Dive Against Debris & Land Clean Up | How To

Simple Life Eco Day – Koh Tao

15 February 2020

Huge thanks to a fabulous team from Simple Life, Dive-Careers & Hydronauts who took the time out of their day to participate!

Are you interested in organising a land, beach or reef clean in your area?

Follow this handy guide to make your efforts as effective as possible!

Cleaning up makes a temporary, cosmetic difference. Logging your data contributes to lasting change.

I have included some affiliate links in this post. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to yourself.
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How to conduct a land clean

Download the Clean Swell App so you can log your data. Designate one person to record all the data for your clean-up group so you don’t duplicate the stats.

Clean Swell in-app screen for recording data

This is ultimately what makes your land clean worth all the hard work. By removing the litter you’ve certainly made a cosmetic difference to your area, however, by contributing your findings for data collation, you can influence the legislation that will drive lasting change!

Get a hold of some eco friendly gloves. I’m going to fess up right here and say that we didn’t get any gloves and it definitely affected how likely we were to pick up certain things. Utterly essential!

Grab a few biodegradable bin bags (you don’t want to run out while you’re out on your mission so bring extras), get your group together and plan your clean-up routes!


What should I collect during a land clean?

Essentially, you should collect everything that doesn’t belong there.

Sorting through plastic fragments and trash collected on a land clean

The usual suspects:

  • cans
  • bottles & lids
  • plastic bags
  • wrappers
  • packaging
  • straws
  • plastic cutlery
  • lighters

Things that might pass you by:

  • fragmented pieces
  • corners of wrappers
  • cigarette butts
  • batteries
  • zip-ties
  • rubber bands
  • lollypop sticks
  • polystyrene

It’s really important to pick up even the smallest fragments of trash. A plastic fork starts out big but can end ended up smashed into tiny pieces when trampled on. It’s much more likely – though not impossible – that animals, birds and fish will ingest micro-plastics than larger sized pieces.


What do we do with all this trash?

First of all, you should congratulate yourselves on some game-changing hard work! It takes courage and dedication to go out into our big bad world and clear up other people’s mess. Good on you!

Now it’s time to sort through all the rubbish you’ve collected to make sure it is being disposed of in the best way possible.

Recycle everything that you can. Cans, plastics, glass, paper and cardboard are amongst the most readily recyclable products but be realistic. There may not be resources near you and you’ve got to consider the environmental impact of transporting a single item to a recycling facility. Also be sure to accurately sort items as cross contamination can result in the entire batch of recyclables being scrapped.

Anything that can’t be salvaged, upcycled or recycled should be disposed of in general waste. Please be careful with personal hygiene products and, if you do come across biohazardous waste, it’s best to call the appropriate authorities. Keep yourself safe, first and foremost.


Land Cleaning Hacks

From someone who has taken the long road and realised there’s a better way…

Cleaning up after a clean-up… learn from us and use a mat when you sort!

Sort as you clear

  • wear gloves and bring a variety of carriers
  • big bags are good for plastics and large recyclables
  • smaller bags work for non-recyclable waste
  • Buckets for small items and fragments

Record data as you go

  • Shout out to the person logging data in the app as you find things!
  • This makes your final sort much easier, and you can double check the accuracy of your data!

Save yourself a second clean-up

  • put down a mat or bag to sort your trash on
  • You can keep the land clear and your motivation levels up
  • Nobody wants to pick up the same litter for a second time!

How to conduct a reef clean

Download the Project Aware App so that you can log all your data. This helps prevent things like plastic straws and carrier bags from entering the water in the first place! Cleaning our planet’s habitats is absolutely worthwhile, but we have to contribute to legislating against the production of harmful products to truly change the world.

Project Aware Mobile App user interface screen

It’s just as valuable to log a dive where you find absolutely no debris. Data aims to paint a vivid picture and it’s fair to say that I’ve been on many dives and encountered nothing – this is important information too!


Dive Against Debris Planning

Organise your dive team:

  • Who is the dive lead?
  • Plan the dive route, navigation style and maximum dive time.
  • Organise diver formation for effective searching.
  • Ensure everyone has the appropriate equipment! All certified divers should already have a cutting tool, but a decent dive knife is very good idea if you’re going to be dealing with fishing wire or netting. You will also need a mesh bag to store all of your findings. If you know you’re going for something big, bring a lift-bag.
Project Aware Dive Against Debris team, pre-dive

Safety first:

  • Designate the use of at least one Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) to protect your team in shallow water – 6m or less.
  • Remember not to hook anything onto yourself – hold the reel or mesh bag in your hand.
  • Assign buddy pairs and count how many divers there are in the team. Make sure you come up with the same number you went down with!
  • Go over your missing diver strategy, just in case.

What should we remove?

We need to be more selective about what we remove from the ocean and how we remove it.

Of course we want to get rid of all things which don’t belong, but not if they have become habitats for life. An old bottle that’s been at sea for months is now a microhabitat for different marine species and it could be more harmful than helpful to remove it.

Another example is fishing wire which has been enveloped by coral. Be careful when using your cutting tool so as not to disturb or damage any marine life. It may be prudent to leave it.

Divers disposing of an old snorkel in the mesh bag

Old glass pieces, bottles and pottery can stay in the ocean. If there is a brand new bottle with its label intact then you can remove it, as long as there is nothing already living in it! Some people choose to tilt the neck of glass bottles upright to ensure a clear entry and exit route for any resident creatures. Again, please use your best judgement.

If you come across a heavy object (over 4kg) please ensure that a lift-bag is used by someone who is trained to do so.

The rest is yours for the taking!


After the Eco Dive

Give yourself a big round of applause for your hard work!

Depending on what you find, you may want to leave heavy things to dry out before disposal. Please, remember to separate the recyclables!

It’s wise to check that there are no sneaky wee critters hiding in any of the waste. Crabs are notorious for stashing themselves in amongst netting and rope, so be sure to shake them off before binning anything!

Our entire Dive Against Debris team taking pride in their work!

Take a photo of your haul and celebrate your hard work. Share it far and wide and encourage others to do the same! I’d love to hear about your land cleans or eco dives – please comment on this post, reach out on Facebook or tag me on Instagram!


If you found this post useful or inspiring then please share it with your friends, family and community! I massively appreciate your support and hope to continue bringing you useful and exciting content. We can save the world – one blog post, one land clean and one plastic bottle at a time. Thank you!


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