Global plastic cleanup

The A Rocha family caring for God’s world through reducing plastic pollution

Subject: Single use plastics litter the world
Location: Our world’s rivers, lakes and ocean
Leader: Robert Sluka

The A Rocha family is committed to seeing our oceans be a place of hope, not plastic. We began our project on marine plastic pollution in 2015 based out of our field study centres in France. This led to an expansion of the work to Portugal and the UK with a focus on microplastics. This culminated in our release of our Microplastics Toolbox.

We not only study and provide education about plastic pollution, but are contributing to habitat restoration of coastal and riverine systems. A major way we are doing this is through cleanup projects. In 2017 these took place in Kenya, South Africa, New Zealand, Netherlands, Portugal and the USA. The global A Rocha family works throughout the year on this issue, but are focusing efforts to join in the International Coastal Cleanup events held the third weekend of September each year. In 2018 eight countries in the A Rocha family held clean up events or participate in events organized by others locally – emphasising our commitment to partnerships. We anticipate more countries joining in 2019.

A beach clean-up guide is available to help those who want to organize their own events (also in Spanish). We also encourage A Rocha National Organizations to find a beach cleanup near them using the International Coastal Cleanup website and join their neighbours in this God-honouring and community-serving activity. Record your beach cleans so we can show that the church is making a difference.

Remember to take lots of pictures and upload them to social media. Tagging them with @arochainternational on Facebook and @arochaint on Twitter, will help get them out to a wider audience. Hashtags to use include #beatplasticpollution #cleanup #creationcare #sdg14 #saveourseas #trashfreeseas #plasticpollution #stoptheplastictide #ICC2019 and #ARocha.

The date is flexible: if you can’t make it on the the weekend of 21-22 September 2019, pick a nearby date. The same with location: if you don’t live by the seaside, clean up a river, street, park or vacant lot in your town and keep that litter from ever getting into the ocean.

We are recommending that national organizations and individuals not only collect plastic off beaches, but contribute to efforts to document the nature of it. This involves considerably more effort, so do not feel obligated. But if you are able, it will help A Rocha begin to quantify its contribution to the global effort as well as help researchers to better understand the issue. We recommend using the methodology suggested at the International Coastal Cleanup site by The Ocean Conservancy. Download their data sheet and send completed forms to [email protected] who will compile them and pass them on to The Ocean Conservancy.

2018 Update

We know of at least eight national organisations that participated in this year’s cleanup, either directly organizing events, joining others, or simply promoting it to their supporters. The map below shows these countries.

In total, there were 29 cleanups globally – South Africa 12, Australia 6, Netherlands 5, Portugal 2, New Zealand 1, Kenya 1, UK 1 and USA 1.

The act of cleaning the beach is an end in and of itself – we are caring for God’s beaches, ocean and waterways. However, there were a number of additional benefits from this activity that have been identified out of this first year of global effort to be involved in the ICC.

  • This is a great event to invite new people to, Christian or otherwise.
  • There is significant publicity that can be attached to these events, both traditional media (TV in Australia and newspaper in Portugal) and social media.
  • It can be combined with our citizen science research on nurdles – Australia had nurdle hunts in most coastal states.
  • While billed as the “coastal” cleanup, there was involvement in rivers far inland particularly by South Africa and in Portugal in the past. This event can easily be extended to rivers and lakes.
  • Theology resources in the Microplastics Toolbox were used to start events with prayer or to read the meditation during/ These provided a great way to connect the event to our faith.


A Rocha South Africa river cleanup in 2017

A Rocha’s global family is making its contribution to removing plastic from God’s beautiful world. Join us!