Beach Cleaning – What’s the Point Actually?

A friend of mine recently made an interesting point, “Why do you still bother beach cleaning? More trash will just get washed up the next day and your efforts don’t make any difference in the big scheme of things!”

Fair enough! But then it got me thinking about why I still bother after 3 years of cleaning?


Worldbank estimates that humans throw away 1.3 billion tonnes of trash a year, around 1.3kg each person, each day! It has been estimated, that by 2050 over 900 million tonnes of this will be floating in the oceans!

By my reckoning, after 3 years of cleaning beaches, I have probably picked up around 1 tonne of trash. Hmm…

So what is the point?

For me, the main driver is an overwhelming guilt. I know that I am responsible for adding to the plastic pollution problem. I use plastic every day, just like everyone else. It is pretty much impossible not to in today’s society. So my main reason is guilt. Every time I pick up plastic and other garbage from the beaches, I feel less guilty about making the waste in the first place. I am serving my penance.

But am I actually doing any good and other than being selfish, am I making any difference?

Perhaps more important (and less selfish) is the noise I make. It still surprises me how little people know about the global issues of plastic pollution in our oceans. Every time I write about plastic pollution or when I discuss it. When I help run workshops or get involved in beach cleaning. When I ask someone not use a straw or a plastic bag. Every time I do something then there is the possibility that someone else may want to make a change too.

This powerful concept is the main reason why ideas eventually take hold to make the change they need to. It is the compound affect and it is the only way we as individuals can make a difference.

Plastic Pollution as an issue is growing in awareness every day.

In 2017 the United Nations finally got involved and formed an organisation called CleanSeas. Every month I seem to hear of new groups rallying about plastic pollution.

Every year, millions more people become more aware of plastic pollution. Every year more Countries enact plastic bag bans or provide alternatives to single use plastic. Every year we build a little bit more momentum than there was last year.

Are We Winning?

Honestly, no. In fact, the pollution issue is getting worse. But we know that when issues like this get critical

In fact, the pollution issue is getting much worse. But if we can give issues like this a critical mass like solar power has now for CO2 emissions, or the CFC issue did for the ozone layer issue previously, then change can come incredibly quickly.

Continuing to raise awareness by doing whatever I can to generate the critical mass to enact change. To me, this is the point of what I do.

Will I succeed?

Hard to imagine the world where I fail, isn’t it.