Green Okinawa(13) beach cleaning

Dear OISTers,


The Resource Center is compiling information on how to be more environmentally friendly in Okinawa. This effort is not possible without all of you! Share your knowledge with us and we'll share it with fellow OISTers!

Okinawa is a beautiful sub-tropical paradise island which is defined, in part, by its beautiful beaches and pristine, blue waters. There are approximately 130 beaches on the main island of Okinawa. Sadly, the beaches can accumulate trash, including PET bottles, glass, cans, and microplastics, all of which is harmful to our ecosystem. However there is a strong community effort to keep Okinawan beaches clean.


Cleaning up your local beach

If you would like to remove trash that has washed up or been discarded on your local beach, your local municipality can provide you with what you need. 

A special note about PET bottles* you find on the beach. If they are clean, or you can rinse them and take them to your local supermarket to be recycled or add them to your household PET recycling. If they are dirty and you cannot rinse them, please add them to the 'combustible' trash bag when you separate the beach waste. 


  1. You can pick up special volunteer bags from Shoko-Kankou-Ka (商工観光課: Commerce and Tourism Division) which is located on the 2nd floor of the Onna Village Hall. Note, you can also contact the Tancha Beach Cleaning group, which maintains a stock of these bags at OIST.
  2. You then need to notify the Sonmin-ka seikatsu kankyōgakari (村民課生活環境係: Living Environment Section in the Resident’s Division) at window #1 on the 1st floor. You need to tell them the time and location of the beach cleaning and consult them about the place to leave the trash you collect. Alternatively, if you already have bags, you can call the office at 098-966-1205 to notify them of your upcoming beach cleaning.
  3. When you clean the beach please separate beach trash in the following 4 categories:
    1. Combustibles, e.g., clothes, diapers, food waste, plastic bottles, vinyl bags, disposable food trays, Styrofoam, paper, plastic containers, CDs, DVDs, videos, PET bottles*. Please do not include seaglass or anything natural such as driftwood, grass, seaweed, shells or bones.
    2. Non-burnable items and cans, e.g. aluminum cans (paint, food, soda, beer, etc.), electric appliances, razors, bottle caps, pans, kettles, pots, nails, ceramic dishes, flower vases, lighters, mirrors. If possible, please wrap sharp items in paper.
    3. Glass bottles or jars
    4. Hazardous materials, e.g. light bulbs, batteries, spray bottles mercury thermometers, needles, syringes, ampoules.
    5. Lage items that are too big for a bag can be put alongside the other trash bags.
  4. If you’ve already notified Onna village office about your beach clean up (step 2), they will collect the trash for disposal.



Danny from Happy Surfing Okinawa regularly cleans the beach near the Toya fish market in Yomitan, "We clean it for the love of our special little piece of paradise out the back of our surfing school."! Here is how you can access the free beach cleaning bags:

  1. Visit window #2 at Yomitan village office to fill out a form to notify the village of the place, time, for the beach cleaning and get the special bags for beach cleaning.
  2. When you clean the beach please separate beach trash in the categories like Onna son (listed above), however please do not collect any items that are too large to fit inside bags.
  3.  Leave the trash in a car park close to the beach youve cleaned. Call the Yomitan village office (098-982-9214) to ask them to collect the trash.



  1. Visit 環境課 (Environment division) located in the basement of Uruma city head office in Midori-machi to fill out a form to notify the city of the place, time, and quantity of the bags needed for the beach cleaning, and then get a poster with instructions on how to separate the trash.
  2. When you clean the beach please separate beach trash. Instructions for separation are provided when picking up bags from city hall.
  3. Call the city hall (098-973-5594) to tell them where you have left the trash and to ask them to collect the trash.



  1. Visit window #13: 環境衛生係(Environment and Sanitation section) located on the 3rd floor in Kadena town hall with the profile of your volunteer group with a summary of the activities you’ve done. Fill out an application form with the date and time for the beach cleaning. Get the bags and stickers to be stuck on the bags after the cleaning to distinguish them from abandoned trash.
  2. When you clean the beach please separate beach trash in the following categories:
    1. Combustibles, e.g same as Onna son
    2. Non-burnable, cans, and glass bottles or jars
    3. Hazardous Materials
    4. Large items that cannot be put in a bag can be left with other trash bags.
  3. You can leave the trash alongside the seawall after the cleaning. As long as you already notified the Kadena city hall about your beach clean, they will come pick up the bags the next day. But make sure to put the stickers on the bags so that people will know that these bags are trash from beach cleaning, not abandoned trash.


Beach cleaning groups

If you fancy cleaning up beaches with friends, there are many initiatives that you can join.

Okinawa Clean Coast Network is a network of people who want to protect the blue ocean, white beaches of Okinawa to share information amongst each other. Anyone can join their activities. They hold an annual “All Okinawa Beach Cleaning” event to raise awareness. Scheduled activities are shared through their website.

Okinawa Beach Cleanup is a volunteer group that is committed to making Okinawa’s beaches cleaner. Due to COVID restrictions, OBC has organized “Cleanup-To-Go”, where they provide the bags and scheduled pick-up date.

Tancha Beach Cleaning is a volunteer group from the OIST community which organizes beach cleanups, mainly in the Tancha area. The group was founded in 2016 by an OIST PhD student as part of the welfare committee to bring people together outside of academic activities and has been maintained by various members of the OIST community over the years. They have regular cleanups roughly once/month. Tancha Beach Cleaning is part of the OIST ECO Club. They occasionally organize beach cleaning events in collaboration with the Kokopelli Pizza truck, who sell pizza to the hungry volunteers.

Oki Lo-Co (Okinawa Local Communication) is a group located in Motobu focused on keeping each beach within Motobu town clean. They have regular Beach Clean Days the first Sunday of every month from 13:00 – 15:00, and are always eager for new volunteers! They released a “Beach Clean Song” on June 27, 2020, which is a compilation album by Yoshie Kurasawa, Yuna Manna, PANG, MEGAHORN, U-MIO, Ryusei Sakuma, who appear at the beach festival “Ufuta Matsuri” held every June in Motobu Town.

Haisai Clean Team is a volunteer beach clean group organizing activities every weekend. Their concept is “Beautiful islands for the future of children!”, and so they have a goal of making the Okinawan Islands even more beautiful. They organize cleaning events all around the island, and they have a Meetup page too!


Read other Green Okinawa posts in the series here

Contact us here

Photo gallery: Chris Petoukhoff and Hideaki Morinaka

The post was developed in collaboration with Chris Petoukhoff (OIST Femtosecond Spectroscopy Unit), Yoshimasa Nakamura (OIST Resource Center), and Kate Whitfield.

Tips/comments shared by the OIST community members:

Name: Anonymous

This is a Japanese company selling work gloves for gardening, etc. that are made from recycled materials. According to their webpage, approximately 90% of the clothes disposed in Japan are NOT recycled but incinerated! The gloves are made from the fibre taken out of the diposed clothes. People may like to protect their hands whilst beach cleaning, and these could be a nice option!