United Nations
Mitigating the threat of marine litter through beach and waterway cleanup on all seven continents
by Ocean Conservancy (Non-governmental organization (NGO))
Marine litter cleanups are an unparalleled way to enable individuals to contribute positively to ocean health. In many instances, the tangible, physical experience of a cleanup exposes people to the issue of marine litter, and more broadly ocean conservation, for the first time. Since 1986, Ocean Conservancys International Coastal Cleanup has been mobilizing millions of individuals around the world for a common, single purpose: keep trash off the beach and out of waterways and the ocean.

Ocean Conservancy and our global network of International Coastal Cleanup Coordinators and Cleanup volunteers will remove at least 50 million kilograms (100 million pounds) of trash and debris from beaches, waterways and the ocean to:

1. Engage millions of individuals around world and raise awareness about the threat posed by marine litter, mainly plastics.
2. Document the most persistent and abundant forms of marine litter and disseminate the data to inform action by individuals, industry and governments.
3. Inspire people to take action and commit to individual actions that reduce marine litter, specifically plastics, from entering the ocean (e.g., skip the straw, prioritize reusable products, etc.).

Since the Cleanups inception in 1986, more than 12 million citizens have dedicated time and effort to remove over 244 million individual debris items weighing in excess of 103 million kilograms. These items have all been collected and logged in a database to help identify and track items of particular concern to our ocean and waterways. The data collected during the cleanup have also been used to inform policies in the United States and in other countries around the world, including:

In the passage of the U.S. Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act and its companion bill in the Senate, the Trash Free Seas Act.
In the final recommendations for action on marine debris developed by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policys An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century.
In the development of the first regional action plans on marine litter in seven of UNEPs Regional Seas programs, emphasizing the importance of upstream actions and waste management.
In the passing of legislation to ban or levy a fee on plastic bags at the city, state/province, and national level.

Over the years Ocean Conservancy has worked with Cleanup partners around the world to ensure the ICC continues to be a powerful movement for our ocean. We are creating and sharing tools that make this possible, the newest of which is our mobile debris data collection application, Clean Swell. Using the application, cleanup volunteers can easily record debris data and submit their results in real time while also snapping photos of interesting finds and earning fun badges. The volunteers and coordinators for this effort are some of the strongest ocean champions and have demonstrated a commitment to their communities and the environment.
Progress reports
November 2019
Remove over 50 million kilograms (100 million pounds) of marine litter from beaches, waterways and underwater habitats in more than 125 countries and on every continent, including Antarctica, as part of the International Coastal Cleanup.
Other, please specify
Contribution of at least 9 million hours of volunteer effort to physically remove marine litter and document it on the official International Coastal Cleanup data form or via the mobile data application, Clean Swell.
Staff / Technical expertise
Technical expertise from International Coastal Cleanup National Coordinators to oversee and support the execution of cleanups in their respective countries and the aggregation and submission of data into Ocean Conservancys global, open access marine litte
Basic information
Time-frame: September 2015 - November 2019
Ocean Conservancy (NGO)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Nicholas Mallos, Director, Trash Free Seas Program, nmallos@oceanconservancy.org, 202.351.0478
Washington, DC, United States
Other SDGs
United Nations