plastic trash on a beach

Author: Bethany Cardwell

It’s no secret that as beach soccer players, we love our beaches. Unfortunately, modern media can make us feel helpless and overwhelmed about plastic pollution on our beaches. It’s easy to think large corporations are the ones creating the most pollution and there’s nothing we can do. Actually, our everyday choices matter.

Imagine showing up to a beach soccer tournament on a sunny Saturday. Hundreds of participants have brought their own refillable metal water bottles. The kind made by Klean Kanteen or Yeti, for example. A large truck parks nearby, filled with fresh drinking water by Blue Lotus. The water is available for all the participants to refill their water bottles. Sounds like a great day, doesn’t it?

Now imagine showing up at another event. Hundreds of participants have brought coolers of disposable plastic water bottles. There are no trash cans anywhere. After the event is over, they leave the beach littered with approximately 1,000 water bottles and lots of trash from snack bags. Think that wouldn’t happen these days?

Both scenarios have happened at ProAm Beach Soccer events. 

The amount of garbage we have removed from some events is truly alarming.  In general, people have good intentions, but when you are on the beach and leave, many either forget or don’t want to think it is theirs and therefore not their responsibility.  As a company we pride ourselves in leaving the beach always cleaner than when we arrived.  Recently, that meant 3 hours of picking up people’s garbage left behind.  This is when our staff is exhausted after working their tails off for our participants and walk the length of the event to try and find every piece of plastic or otherwise left behind.  We wish people had more of the mentality of packing out what you packed in because we won’t always be there to pick up after people”, mentioned Tighe O’Sullivan, Pro-Am Beach Soccer CEO and Event Coordinator.    

What Went Wrong?

Leaving a beach covered in plastic and trash is NOT in line with the philosophy of ProAm Beach Soccer. The event that left the beach covered in trash was depressing. Nothing of this magnitude had ever happened at previous beach soccer tournaments.

Well, for reasons outside of ProAm Beach Soccers’ control, the promised trash cans for the event never arrived. Instead of participants putting their used water bottles back in the containers they brought them in, they left the trash behind on the beach. It was a disturbing sight which took ProAm Beach Soccer staff & volunteers hours to clean up when they were the most tired. 

As beach soccer players, what can you do to fight the plastic pollution that increases every year? We have some simple tips you can use before heading to your next event. They’ll help if trash cans aren’t readily available, are overflowing, or you just want to do your part to keep the beaches and oceans clean. It’s important that current and future generations can enjoy kicking a soccer ball on clean sand.

What Can You Do?

There’s a lot you can do! Here are our top 3 tips for keeping the beaches (or anywhere) clean the next time you go, and reducing your plastic consumption. At our events, we use these simple tips and make it a point to leave beaches cleaner than when we arrived.

Tip 1. Don’t Rely on Recycling – Avoid Plastic in the First Place

Reuse as often as you can. It’s much better to buy and use a metal water bottle instead of continuing to buy disposable plastic bottles. Not just better on your budget, but, according to National Geographic, less than 10% of plastic recyclables are getting recycled. There is just too much plastic made and not enough recycling resources. Plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times. That means over 90% of our plastics are still ending up in our landfills and oceans.

Use metal water bottles over plastic ones. Metal and glass can be recycled an infinite number of times. Metal water bottles also come in insulated versions that will keep your drinks hot or cold for hours. I have a Klean Kanteen Insulated water bottle that’s over 5 years old and, besides a few dents, looks and works as well as it did when I bought it. I can leave it sitting in the hot sun for hours and the water is still cold. In my old plastic bottle, the water would get warm within an hour on a hot day and would smell and taste like plastic.

Yep. It was as gross as it sounds.

Tip 2. Pack In/Pack Out

This isn’t just for camping. Make this a habit everywhere you go. If bringing a bunch of random bags with you sounds like a pain, do an internet search for reusable, washable, and foldable bags. There are lots of bags made of fabric or nylon that fold up into a pouch small enough to fit into your pocket. I love these because I can keep a lot of them in my car or purse, so I don’t have to pay fees for bags. I have also gotten these kinds of bags from friends as gift bags and really appreciated it. It’s another great idea for reducing waste and increasing your gift. They come in cute designs or solid colors and are often less expensive than a traditional gift bag.

Plan to bring enough bags, or use the original container (such as your cooler) to collect your empty bottles, cans, and other trash if there aren’t readily available trash cans for you to use. If you’re so inclined, pick up stray trash you come across, especially before it hits the water.

Tip 3. Participate in (or Organize) a Beach Clean Up Event

There are multiple environmental organizations that you can build a relationship with to help keep our beaches and oceans clean.

You can find out about any beach cleanup days in your area with a quick Internet search. September is Coastal Cleanup Month, and Save Our Shores is organizing cleanups around the Monterey, CA area. Save Our Shores is one of our favorite organizations and we encourage you to check them out, along with the Surfrider Foundation.

Getting some friends or teammates together and heading out to a beach to clean it up can be a satisfying way to spend the day. Surfrider Foundation has many chapters and Student Clubs where you can find an organized beach cleanup, as well as tips to organize your own.

We Hope You’ll Score Some Plastic-Free Goals

Part of the mission of Pro-Am Beach Soccer is to create green events having a low environmental impact. As a beach soccer player, you are in a unique position to make a real difference on our beaches and in the oceans. Plastic and trash in the ocean affects our environment in disastrous ways. In the ocean, the plastic breaks down into microplastics. The tiny fragments can kill sea life who eat it. It can also pollute the fish we eat.

In the past, we’ve partnered with organizations such as Klean Kanteen and Blue Lotus Water Filtering, and had campaigns to push for no plastic use at tournaments. We’d love it if we could do this at every event, but unfortunately, it can be cost-prohibitive to provide. Through this article, we hope that we can make a difference.

After all, as John Maxwell once said, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

So set some goals to reduce your plastic and go after them. If anyone knows how to score goals, it’s a beach soccer player.

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