Debris Cleanups

Quick Details

Tuesdays at 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Departing from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center.

Ages 12 and older.

Come prepared! Please read below for all safety requirements.

Come ready to get wet and dirty in the name of  helping to keep Biscayne beautiful!

$ Free

Join us in our efforts to rid the sensitive coastal habitats protected by Biscayne National Park of debris!

Become a volunteer for Biscayne National Park through the Institute and do your part to keep Biscayne beautiful.

Tuesdays at 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Departing from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center.

We will be removing debris from mangrove coast line, sea turtle beaches or where ever debris removal is needed. This may include paddling on stand up paddleboards and wading in the water.

This is a free activity open to participants ages 12 and older. Participants ages 12-17 must have their parent or legal guardian present and participating in the activity with them in order to participate. This activity is considered strenuous and participants should be physically fit enough to wade through up to waist-deep waters, walk on rocky coast lines, and lift debris for at least an hour.

Please come prepared! Closed toed shoes such as dive booties are required. Wear appropriate apparel, light weight long sleeves and long pants are recommend. Be prepared for the possibility of getting wet. Please bring your own work gloves. Don’t forget to bring a water bottle, sunscreen, towel, insect repellent, and snacks.

Below are two of the documents that you will be asked to sign as well as a Volunteer Service Agreement. Copies of these will be provided the day of your volunteer activity. Please read them over prior to booking so you know what to expect and what will be expected of you. Thank you!


BNPI Marine Debris Cleanup VIP Position Description:

How many people required:  flexible

Goals of this position: Remove marine debris from sensitive coastal habitats including, but not limited to, sea turtle nesting beaches, mangrove shorelines, and popular visitor access areas

How many days per month:  varied

Duration of position: year round, with heavy focus on winter and spring

Location of Volunteer Position: Dante Fascell Visitor Center, Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th Street, Homestead, FL 33033.  Volunteers will be transported via government/institute boat to specific work sites.  

Tasks required:

  • Collect and bag assorted marine debris from assigned work area
  • Dispose of garbage in dumpster
  • Report suspicious debris items to supervisor

Characteristics of Volunteer Position

  • Responsible and professional
  • Self-starter and quick to learn
  • Follows directions, but can independently perform tasks once oriented
  • Punctual and dependable
  • Must be able to wade in waist-deep water, walk on rocky shorelines and beaches while bending over to pick up marine debris for several hours a day

Paperwork Needed:

  • Agreement, with parental approval if under 18yrs (OF301a or OF301b)
  • Job description (this page will suffice for PD)
  • JHA (safety document)

Volunteer Supervisor Information:  [email protected], 305.247.1216

Volunteer Program Supervisor: [email protected] 786.335.3673

Required Training:  15 minute orientation on day of your assignment

Suggested Training: n/a

Uniform/Dress Code: This is a non-uniformed position.  Sun protective clothing that can get wet/dirty recommended (long sleeve/pants).  Swimsuit as base layer recommended. Footwear should be closed toed shoes (dive booties, Keene sandals, etc…).  

Age Restrictions: ages 12+, (ages 12-17 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian)

Other Items to Note: no reimbursements available, work level: strenuous


Job Hazard Analysis

Tasks/Procedures Hazards Abatement Actions * Engineering Controls * Substitution * Administrative Controls *PPE
Load boats with participants and gear
  • Boats can be overloaded
  • participants can fall off boat, dock, or trip on cleats or other objects
  • Appendages can be crushed between boat and dock
  • Participants hand gear to someone on boat rather than stepping into the boat while holding gear.
  • Ensure that all passengers are wearing close-toed shoes on deck and in boat.
  • Distribute load evenly throughout boat; captain directs placement of gear and passengers, and gets headcount of all on board prior to departure.
  • Captain should recount heads throughout the day.
  • All light gear and loose clothing (hats) must be securely stored or secured, passengers are assisted as they load onto the boat.
  • All passengers are reminded to keep hands, arms and feet within the vessel and not between the boat and dock.
Transport to and from work site
  • Rough sea state and/or poor weather can make for a rough ride
  • During transit, all passengers are seated or standing securely holding onto the boat
  • no bow-riding
  • no limbs hanging over side of boat
  • no sitting on gunwales
  • PFD’s required to be onboard for each passenger
  • All passengers must always obey commands from boat captain.
  • Boat captain can cancel trip for weather reasons at anytime.
Unloading boat and wading into shore (or docking)
  • Propeller injury
  • falling into water
  • stingray spine injury
  • falling on coral rock/urchins/mangroves at intertidal zone
  • No unloading is done until boat is securely anchored and engine(s) are turned off.  
  • Boat should be anchored at a depth that is safe (comfortable) enough for passenger entry, but not so shallow as to risk grounding.  
  • Boat captain must be aware of tides.  
  • When available (depending on boat being used), dive doors are removed and secured for exit of boat passengers.  
  • Those that are weak swimmers or uncomfortable in the water should be assisted by stronger, more comfortable participants.
  • If using paddle craft, listen for directions from staff regarding usage and safety items.
  • If snorkeling, listen to directions from staff regarding safety topics.
  • All must be wearing protective footwear such as dive booties and proceed slowly to shore using the “stingray shuffle” method of walking.  
  • At the shoreline, proceed very slowly and ensure steady footing on the coral rock before taking each step.
Performing clean-up Participants can encounter dangerous items such as sharp items (e.g. glass shards), biohazards (e.g. syringes), illegal substances, explosives, unknown materials, and very large, heavy items
  • A pre-activity safety orientation is required (ideally at a meeting prior to leaving park headquarters).
  • Participants must wear heavy-duty gloves while picking up debris.  
  • Broken glass must be handled with extreme care and placed in the designated hard-sided container, never placed in the plastic garbage bags.  
  • Biohazards should only be picked up with the grabbers; syringes must be placed in the SHARPS container.  
  • Illegal substances and explosive materials MUST be left onsite and reported to Dispatch/LE.
  • Unknown materials should not be touched but should be reported to the event supervisor.  
  • Large, heavy items need to be tackled by a team of people, not by solo lifting.  
  • Lifters should bend at the knees and carefully move large items.  
  • If possible (depending on material/composition), break up large items into smaller, more manageable pieces.  
  • Debris that is encrusted with hard coral or has other obvious signs of permanence in the surrounding environment should be left alone.
  • Debris that is relatively new to the environment may be collected: carefully brush off soft corals or sponges before bringing to surface.
  • Crab traps cannot be collected unless otherwise specified.  Trap line CAN be collected.
  • Have a first aid kit ready with band aids, antibiotic ointment, Calamine lotion etc.
Performing clean-up Participants can become dehydrated, hungry, exposed to heat, sun, stinging/biting organisms
  • A pre-activity safety orientation is required (ideally at a meeting prior to leaving park headquarters).
  • Supervisors must take care to ensure that adequate breaks are provided so that participants can hydrate and have snacks.  
  • If possible, safety snacks and Gatorade powder could be provided.
  • Provide hand sanitizer so participants can clean their hands before handling food and drinks.
  • Have a required 30-minute lunch break in which all work ceases.  
  • Provide sunscreen and bug spray and ensure that participants are applying and re-applying as needed.
  • Encourage long sleeves and long pants, do not allow students to work in bathing suits.
  • Train participants to be aware of potentially hazardous organisms such as spiders, scorpions etc.
  • Have a first aid kit ready with band aids, antibiotic ointment, Calamine lotion etc.
Transferring bagged and loose debris to boat Bags can be very heavy, have sharp items poking out, wading out to the boat while carrying heavy/large items adds an extra challenge
  • Do not overload bags
  • Do not place broken glass or other sharp items in the bags since they can tear the bag and become safety hazards
  • Keep bags above the water surface so they do not fill with water and become unbearably heavy,
  • Practice the “assembly line” method of moving bags by passing them short distances from one person to the next instead of having each person walk the entire length between the shore and the boa
  • If the tide has risen since the boat has anchored, move the boat into shallower water
  • Have at least one person on the boat to accept each item and determine wise placement.
  • Distribute debris, gear, and passengers evenly on board the vessel.
Loading the boat and departing from shore (or dock) Passengers can be injured by the propeller or boat; risk falling off the boat if not secured
  • Captain must take a headcount of the passengers, ensure that all passengers are accounted for and located in appropriate sections of the boat with three points of contact.
  • Ensure that all debris and gear are secured.
  • Make sure that lower unit of motor will not touch bottom before starting engine
  • If you have used an anchor, safely lift anchor (by BNPI staff or experienced volunteers if possible)
  • Slowly depart shore area and have a lookout at stern to determine adequate depth for departure.
Docking and unloading the boat Participants can fall off the boat or get injured on the dock and while unloading
  • Participants on boat must hand gear and debris carefully to someone on the dock.
  • Same precautions taken when transferring bagged and loose debris to boat.
  • All participants must be wearing gloves.  
  • Debris is taken to dumpster and disposed properly with care.
  • Make sure to remind participants to lift with their knees and not backs, also remind them to ask for help with lifting large objects.  
  • Do a final headcount.
  • Ensure that all debris is removed from boat and that the boat is clean, fueled, and secured in its slip.

Thank you for giving your time and effort to help maintain the beauty of your National Park!