Photo credit: Rick Kane

Help clean up our shorelines.

The Watershed Center is a regional leader in beach, shoreline, streambank, and in-water cleanups that help remove litter from our water. We host public cleanup events, help private groups conduct their own cleanups, and partner with other groups in cleanup activities. Starting in 2021, The Watershed Center has partnered with dozens of organizations across the Great Lakes basin for the Great Lakes CleanUP, a coordinated beach and nearshore cleanup project to protect sensitive habitats and drinking water sources in the Great Lakes. Over the past two years, 400 volunteers have removed 3,060 pounds of trash from our Grand Traverse Bay shoreline and nearshore areas.

Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup.

In 2022, The Watershed Center joined the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup, a joint effort between Pollution Probe and the bi-national Council of the Great Lakes Region aimed at taking action to clean up the waterways of the Great Lakes region. Through this partnership and the generous funding and support provided by Midwest retailer Meijer, we will be using autonomous robots to clean up beaches (BeBot) and nearshore areas (PixieDrone) along Grand Traverse Bay.

BeBot & PixieDrone Video

The BeBot is a 100% electric, eco-friendly beach cleaning robot that mechanically sifts sand to remove plastic waste and other debris.

The PixieDrone is a floating, remote-controlled waste collector that targets floating waste in all forms.

Each year, 22 million pounds of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes and poses a tremendous threat to the 40 million people that depend on the Great Lakes as a drinking water source and the hundreds of native species that live in and rely on the lakes. Plastic debris eventually breaks down into microplastics that bioaccumulate in fish and wildlife and attract toxic chemicals such as PCBs that bind to plastic surfaces when present in water. The Watershed Center’s deployment of innovative technology that removes trash along the shoreline of Grand Traverse Bay prevents man-made products such as plastics and other synthetic litter from threatening our drinking water and the health of fish and wildlife. The debris collected is analyzed and categorized, and valuable data is gleaned to help inform scientific research, educational materials, and policy development.

The Watershed Center is interested in deploying the BeBot and PixieDrone on coastal beaches and marinas in Grand Traverse Bay, as well as exploring educational opportunities involving this technology. For more information, please contact Christine Crissman at



Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup Events

The following events are open to the public:

  • Saturday, April 27, 2024, 1:00-3:00pm at the Volleyball Beach in Traverse City

    Participants are asked to register when they arrive at the event; registration tent will be located at the east end of the volleyball courts.
Contact Heather by email at to learn more or register for an event.

2023 Waste Characterization Results

Removed 4 pounds of debris 2mm or larger
  • Plastic fragments - 1,526 (43%)
  • Cigarett butts - 841 (24%)
  • Paper/cardboard - 509 (14%)
  • Glass - 215 (6%)
  • Foam - 140 (4%)
  • Aluminum foil - 91 (3%)
  • Other - 215 (6%)
Many thanks to the following beach cleanup sponsors:
For more information on clean up activities, contact Grand Traverse Bay WATERKEEPER® Heather Smith at or 231.935.1514 x3.

We connect people to what makes this region special - clean water.