Do Beach Cleanups Really Make A Difference?

Do Beach Cleanups Really Make A Difference?

Do Beach Cleanups Really Make A Difference?

When it comes to plastic waste littering our beaches, it sometimes feels like we are fighting a tsunami-sized problem, and that our actions are too small to really make a difference. We might collect all the plastic waste on a particular beach one day, only to find it covered in plastic again a week later. Not only is this very demoralising, but it can also cause us to ask the question - Do beach cleanups really make a difference? 

The IUCN called plastic pollution the "most widespread problem affecting the marine environment." At least 11 million tons of plastics end up in the oceans each year. The ocean is the beating heart of our planet and generates half of the earth’s oxygen. Every second breath we take comes from the ocean.  We are suffocating our planet with the amount of plastic waste entering our ocean. So what is the solution? Do we just keep cleaning our beaches every day? Or is there more we can do to make a difference?

To address this fast-growing threat of marine plastic pollution, Parley for the Oceans devised a strategy that can be scaled across private households, businesses and governments — and the creative industries that mold the reality we inhabit. Realized in three key pillars of action, Parley AIR is an invitation to own your role in the movement for solutions. 

Parley AIR Strategy


  • Avoid plastic wherever possible and replace it with alternative, eco-innovative materials.
  • Opt for minimal or no packaging and refuse single-use plastics (e.g. bags, bottles, utensils, straws, lids).
  • Plan ahead. Carry reusable alternatives.
  • Talk about it. Educate and empower your friends and family to adopt a plastic-conscious mentality.


  • Retrieve and recycle
  • Participate in a beach cleanup (or lake, river, park cleanup). It’s one thing to talk about the problem and another to confront it head on.
  • Inform yourself on local recycling and composting.
  • Support businesses that support the oceans – look for recycling and upcycling initiatives, plastic alternatives, waste reduction policies, etc.


  • To solve plastic for good, we must reinvent the material, methods and thinking behind it. Get creative. We have imaginations for a reason.
  • Question both the reason-to-be and end-of-life for every item you use.
  • Support the use of eco-innovative materials and alternatives to plastic.
  • Support/implement policies that prevent unnecessary plastics (like microbeads and plastic bags).

So, do beach cleanups make a difference? 

Yes, they do. Every piece of litter intercepted from the beach is one less piece of litter that doesn’t end up in the ocean.

Beach cleanups are important mitigation tools that can help create an understanding of the problem and encourage people to engage in solutions. Awareness is the first step to creating behaviour change. When participants in a cleanup see the plastic that they use every day end up on the beach, they can begin to realise how their daily habits have a big impact on the environment.  

However, a more holistic approach and widespread actions are necessary to really turn the tide on the plastic pollution problem, such as the Parley AIR Strategy.  

What can you do to create change?

TAKE THE AIR PLEDGE today and LEARN MORE about how to be plastic free. Follow us on @sentinelocean to join us on our next beach cleanup or donate to help us create more impact and awareness. Other than that - read up, get heated, and spread the word. Let’s do this together!
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1 comment

Beach cleanups are a great way to fall in love with the beauty of the oceans while learning about how plastic pollution impacts the ocean’s health.

James Schulte

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