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Making a Splash: The Impact of The Clean Wave's Beach Cleanups in Costa Rica

The Clean Wave has been using TOMbag reusable garbage bags since 2022 for numerous beach cleanups in Costa Rica. We had the chance to sit down with Andrés Bermúdez Bermúdez the President & CEO of The Clean Wave to understand more about their initiative and the incredible work they are doing to keep our beaches and oceans clean.


Beach Cleanups
The Clean Wave weekly beach cleanups

TOMbag: Tell us more about The Clean Wave and its initiatives and projects.

The Clean Wave: the Clean Wave started in 2017, to keep our oceans free of plastic. Fast Forward to today, we have the ambitious goal of cleaning 600 beaches in Costa Rica. Our 8 initiatives are Underwater Restoration, Mangrove Restoration, Beach Restoration, Forest Restoration, Urban Restoration, Community Revitalization, Education & Zero Waste. Those 8 initiatives hold around 65 projects including underwater cleanups, coral restoration, mangrove cleanups, reforestation, tree nurseries, monkey bridges for wildlife crossing, citizens science workshops with Mantas, and more.


TOMbag: How did it all start and how has the organization grown since then?

The Clean Wave: Back in 2017, me and Juan Arias (Co-Founder), used to walk to Playa Langosta every morning for some surfing. I would take pictures and he would surf. One day seeing trash on our path to the beach, we decided to do something about it. He came up with the name, I got the social media going and in our very first event, we had a group of 20 students who showed up, eager to volunteer. Nowadays we have a team of 25 avid volunteers, just recently expanded to the USA, and have a very ambitious team with lots of goals.


TOMbag: At the core of The Clean Wave are beach clean-ups across Costa Rica. How many clean-ups per year do you normally host? 

The Clean Wave: We currently host from 20 to 30 events per month.


TOMbag: How many volunteers join you during a single beach clean-up event? Who are your typical volunteers (expats, locals, younger, older, etc) + what drives them?

The Clean Wave: Based on 2023 data, our events average 15 volunteers per event. Last year we had 159 events. Depending on the beach, but it goes from locals, visitors, expats, and students. I’d say what drives them is their awareness of the problem, otherwise, you wouldn’t be much interested in it.


TOMbag: As an organization you are advocating for zero waste: how have TOMbag reusable garbage bags that you have started using during your beach cleanups helped you achieve this goal? What is your volunteers’ feedback on this new addition?

The Clean Wave: TOMbag reusable bags have definitely helped us with our goal. We use them every beach cleanup and I still remember the first time we used them with a group of local students and how impressed they were by a reusable bag, a simple concept for us but perhaps not existing for some other people. 


TOMbag: What are the most common items found during clean-ups? What are the most weird items your volunteers have found so far?

The Clean Wave: Definitely cigarette butts! We’ve found mattresses, syringes, money, and a Fitbit once!


TOMbag: Apart from beach clean-ups you have several other interesting environmental initiatives. Can you walk us briefly through them? (e.g. Underwater cleanups, Monkey Bridges, reforestation, community compost, waste management, and education programs).

The Clean Wave: We now have 8 defined initiatives Underwater Restoration, Mangrove Restoration, Beach Restoration, Forest Restoration, Urban Restoration, Community Revitalization, Education & Zero Waste. Beach cleanups are how we started, we’ve grown and got more involved with the community with projects like Temporary recycling drop-off points for the community in partnerships with other NGOs and local organizations & municipalities. Wildlife studies with SalveMonos (local NGO) for monkey troops and building monkey bridges. This is due to the rapid development of Guanacaste proving in Costa Rica, which brings deforestation We actively work with different schools and we can share with students and plant seeds with ocean awareness presentations. Last year we started our own tree nursery to source our trees locally for our reforestation projects. We also plan on kickstarting our community compost program at our Nursery so the neighbors can bring their organics. We’ve also launched our underwater division, and we can offer Diving Certifications. We host 1 coral restoration event a month, followed by an underwater cleanup the day after. 


TOMbag: How can an individual join your movement?

The Clean Wave: They can visit our website www.thecleanwave.org and fill out a form. Signing up for our newsletter, opening our email, giving us attention, taking action by joining one of our events, or donating and taking agency by running an event in your community!


TOMbag: How can businesses and other types of organizations contribute to your efforts?

The Clean Wave: They can align with our Corporate Social Responsibility program for 2024, donate goods, donate or sponsor our events. 


TOMbag: What are your challenges?

The Clean Wave: Apathy & funding


TOMbag: What are your ambitions and goals?

The Clean Wave: Being able to develop 200 community organizers that can lead 3 beach cleanup events a week, this is how we will be able to clean 600 beaches in Costa Rica. Having a product & plastic processing lab, coral nursery & lab, headquarters, and lodging for international volunteers.


 

Thanks again for our amazing partners like The Clean Wave making a real difference in the world. Another partner we've helped make beach cleanups sustainable is Loggerhead Marinelife Center, watch how they're making beach cleanups sustainable here. If you'd like to partner with us to enable waste-free beach cleanups, contact us here.




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