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Shedd Aquarium Calls for Volunteers to Clean Chicago's Coasts in Honor of Annual International Coastal Cleanup

Chicago Beach and Riverfront Volunteer Events Aim to Clean Up Pollution for Local Wildlife and Residents

September 02, 2021

Plastic bottles washed up on a rocky beach in the Bahamas are coated in a fine layer of salt but show no sign of degrading.

While the 2021 International Coastal Cleanup Day is set for September 18, Shedd Aquarium wants the public to get involved in cleaning up Chicago’s coastlines for the whole month of September. Shedd is hosting four different volunteer events throughout the month at Chicago-area beaches and parks to remove pollution and protect wildlife, our source of drinking water and the Great Lakes. The cleanups are free and open to the public, but require advanced registration.

Volunteers attending the Shedd Aquarium Action Days this September will pick up litter and debris on beaches and at parks, sort the litter for recyclable materials and document what they pick up. Information collected will be added to a database of materials found during cleanups across the Great Lakes, which is used to inform decisions for effective coastal management and policies that prevent pollution in the first place.


SIGN-UP: Those interested in volunteering can find more information at or sign up by emailing [email protected] with your name, the date and location you wish to attend, and how many individuals will be joining you.

BACKGROUND: International Coastal Cleanup Day is cited as one of the largest annual preservation and conservation events in the world, intended to motivate communities to take action when it comes to protecting their waterways. While many might think of the ocean when they think of coasts, the Great Lakes offer 4,530 miles of coastlines, all which need the same dedication from volunteers. Shedd’s beach cleanups scheduled in September offer an opportunity for Chicagoans to help, while others outside of Chicago can join cleanups anywhere from Toronto to Texas.

Among the litter that volunteers might remove from the beaches are pre-production plastic pellets, also known as nurdles. A study published late last year revealed that 42 out of 66 beaches across Great Lakes shorelines contain these nurdles. When these pieces find their way into our waters, they wreak havoc on ecosystems and on the health of humans and animals. It’s one of the reasons Senator Dick Durbin and Shedd Aquarium are urging the U.S. Senate to pass the INVEST in America Act, which includes measures to prevent these nurdles from reaching waterways.

VISUALS: High resolution photos and video of 2021 beach clean-ups are available for download here:
Video Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Gavin Wright
Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez