Do Beach Cleanups Really Help?

Although beach shores get the most attention, the greatest issue is deep ocean pollution


Although beach shores get the most attention, the greatest issue is deep ocean pollution

Vincent Shockley, Editor in Chief

Beach cleanups can be a good activity, but the question has arisen as to whether or not they really have a positive impact. 

Beach clean ups have turned into a regular occurrence throughout American culture as well as other countries. These have been meant to combat and bring awareness to the ever growing issue of pollution and littering, specifically in coastal areas. But it has been brought to light that these events may be largely rendered useless. 

When doing research on my own time, I try my best to find subjects that are not usually researched or analyzed deeply; which is why I was brought to the idea of beach clean ups. It seems as if every weekend there is a beach cleanup of some sort occurring at a beach nearby, but are they truly effective in cleaning and spreading a message? In the new age of high school, students need far more community service hours which will result in many attending, with no intention of cleaning the ocean or bringing awareness to the problem. 

The article that piqued my interest in the lack of effectiveness of beach/ocean cleanups is by Vox, which questions the legitimacy of a foundation called The Ocean Cleanup. The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization which aims to clean up 90% of the floating plastic that is in the ocean. On a social media video, the company flaunts their efforts by showing 8,400 pounds of plastic being dumped onto a boat. This, if real, is a valiant effort that can truly help with the cleaning of the oceans. Although, many marine biologists had found certain problems with the litter that was collected. The video that was shared shows all of the litter being dumped, but it was unusually clean. Regular ocean litter will be covered with the build up of marine organisms and barnacles which is what sparked this concern. 

So… does this mean that this was a complete fake? In short, there could be an explanation. The company justified this by saying that the water was lacking nutrients and the ability to support said marine life. Regardless, this is concerning. 

This rumored scandal only puts a spotlight on the unfortunate truth of the effectiveness of beach cleanups. Unfortunately, in reality, small beach cleanups have pretty much no impact on our beaches and environment. According to Brigitte Osterath of, “A study into similar cleanups in Cyprus revealed they have a limited effect — in particular, people often miss things like small plastics and cigarette butts.” A large majority of the plastic that is affecting the beaches and oceans are at the bottom of the deep ocean. A small gathering on a beach will not be able to combat a global problem of improper waste disposal, which is being worsened by governments and large corporations as well.  

For example, one of the greatest ocean polluters in the world is the most populated country in the world: China. According to Maya Xu and David Stanway of Reuters, “China dumped a total of 200.7 million cubic meters of waste into its coastal waters in 2018, a 27% rise on the previous year and the highest level in at least a decade, the country’s environment ministry said on Tuesday.” Although this data is from 2018, it shows that despite the awareness and efforts of relatively large gatherings of people to clean up the beach, large corporations and countries are still worsening the situation. Beach cleanups will not be able to counteract this problem in any way shape or form. 

The solution to this problem is non-profit organizations similar to the Ocean Cleanup, which has taken scrutiny as highlighted above. Non-profits will not be able to tackle this issue as a whole though. Countries across the world will need to keep each other in check and find possible solutions at stopping ocean pollution as a whole. Then, and only then, will beach cleanups be working in the positive rather than a fight against mass pollution. 

When asking Ms. Whittaker (sponsor of Save the Ocean’s Club) her opinion on the topic of beach cleanups and activities she stated “I believe that anything we can do individually to help our earth’s environment is worth the effort. Unfortunately, the problem of plastics, especially polluting our oceans, is almost impossible to solve. At least, beach clean ups help to keep the beach and shoreline looking better and more user friendly for all of us. We actually do pick up many bottle caps and cigarette butts on the beach to make a small difference in our city beaches. It’s just too bad that many self absorbed people negligently litter our world, whether the beaches or land for that matter.”

In all, unfortunately, beach cleanups do not help very much at all with pollution and waste deposits into the ocean. Although, it must not get twisted that beach cleanups are a harmful act, as it is an innocent attempt to leave a positive effect on the environment. Tackling this issue begins with large corporations and governments as this is an issue above casual littering on a beach.