Cleaning up South Africa’s coast

Every year thousands of volunteers take to beaches around the world to rid the sands and waters of trash as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

The Ocean Conservancy is an advocacy group based in Washington DC in the US that aims to ‘educate and empower citizens to take action on behalf of the ocean‘. It has been organising beach cleanups around the world for more than 35 years.

In 2021, 1,442 volunteers covered 89.4km of South African beaches where they collected more than 39,000 items that should have been thrown away.

Cigarette butts

The most common find was cigarette butts, which though small, are not harmless. They are made of cellulose acetate, a man-made plastic, and contain toxic chemicals that harm both the Earth and the ocean. Almost 4,000 stompies were found on our beaches.

They rank as the most common found waste product around the world

  • More than 1-million cigarette butts were found on beaches in 2021.
  • Since the first international cleanup in 1986, 59.4-million cigarette butts have been collected by Ocean Conservancy volunteers.

What you can do

  • The number of volunteers taking part in beach clean-ups in South Africa has been falling, so why not contribute your time and trash-finding skills? The Ocean Conservancy’s #SeatheChange challenge happens every year in September. Go here to find out how to sign up.
  • If you’d prefer to embark on a solo cleanup or organise your own, download the Clean Swell app, turn on your location and log the type of litter you find (and please dispose of it properly!) By recording each item of trash you collect, you’re helping scientists and advocates around the world tackle ocean trash on a global scale.