20 Years and Counting 

Adopt-a-Beach celebrates 20 years of litter data

November 20, 2023

Adopt-a-Beach volunteers removed more than 530,000 pieces of litter – weighing over 25,000 pounds – from Great Lakes shorelines in 2023. 

Each piece of litter is part of a bigger story that spans 20 years of data collection: a story of shoreline litter and plastic pollution, and of tens of thousands of dedicated Adopt-a-Beach volunteers who care for their communities. 

Adopt-a-Beach volunteers tally every piece of litter and make a record of what they find. Thanks to these amazing volunteers, we have 20 years of litter data from cleanups in all eight Great Lakes states. No lab or individual researcher could collect this large dataset on their own. Because of their efforts, we know that most of the litter – 80% this year – is made from plastic. This valuable data helps scientists study sources of plastic pollution and helps policymakers develop solutions. 

Beyond the numbers, Adopt-a-Beach volunteers create an amazing sense of community. They work side-by-side with friends, family, colleagues, and classmates. In 2023 they were part of an Adopt-a-Beach community that stretched more than a thousand miles, from Duluth, Minnesota to Fineview, New York. 

Thank you to all the Team Leaders and volunteers who cared for their shorelines this year! Here are some highlights of what they accomplished: 

530,797 pieces of litter.
25,362 pounds of litter.
Litter Type: 48% tiny trash, 26% food-related, 17% smoking-related, 9% other.
Litter Material: 80% plastic, 20% other materials.
921 beach cleanups.
Great Lakes map showing cleanup locations across the lakes.
More than 9,600 volunteers.
Over 22,924 volunteer hours.

A special thanks to this year’s top Adopt-a-Beach sponsors: Bell’s Brewery, Brunswick Foundation, HSBC, Meijer, and Unilever.