Being among the top eight cleanest seas in Europe, Croatia’s Adriatic is famous for its crystal-clear turquoise color and excellent water quality. I’ve visited dozens of beaches in the Dubrovnik area, and I’m always impressed by the lack of garbage and trash along the shoreline and swimming area.

But with millions of tourists visiting Dubrovnik annually, how do beaches remain so spotless? After talking with a few of the locals, it turns out keeping beaches and the sea clean is part of a large community effort, one that serves as a model for other beach towns to emulate.

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Hanging out at a locals beach in the village of Plat.

To start, majority of the locals in Dubrovnik treat the Adriatic with the utmost respect. I’ve never seen a local leave trash or a mess behind after spending a day at the beach. The times I’ve ventured to the local beach hangouts this summer, I could not find one piece of trash.

But even the tourist spots, such as Banje Beach, are remarkably clean as well. In general I really don’t see tourists completely trashing the beaches in Dubrovnik, but I’ve noticed that they have specifically hired staff members at various beaches to collect any pieces of trash left behind.

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Clean swimming area in the Zupa area.

Inevitably, some waste does make its way from the shores to the Adriatic seabed. That’s when the Dubrovnik Diving Club comes in. Each year a group of divers from Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina remove waste and debris found along Dubrovnik’s Coast. Sponsored by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the City of Dubrovnik in years past, the Diving Club is responsible for deep sea, environmental cleanup.

I have to say, I am somewhat surprised to find that there is not one local government body responsible for keeping the seas and beaches clean in Dubrovnik – rather, a collection of citizens accountable to their coastal community.

In contrast, I cringe thinking about how trashed North Ave Beach was in Chicago after the past Labor Day weekend. Our beach waste is destroying lakes and oceans, especially plastic. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year, and 85 percent of the world’s plastic is not recycled.


Clear water in Dubrovnik.

So when you’re at the beach this summer, pick up after yourself and your friends. Don’t leave trash behind, and pick up a few pieces of garbage as you leave. Collect recyclables and take an extra five minutes to find a recycling container. Ditch the plastic water bottle and bring your own reusable bottle. And maybe put some rum and coke in it.:)

Sometimes the solution is simple. Dubrovnik shows us that care for the sea needs to be ingrained in every coastal community.


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