In 2015, a group of avid surfers and ocean lovers started cleaning the rocky shore at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg, Cape Town of marine debris every new moon.

Entry Motivation: 

In 2015, a group of avid surfers and ocean lovers started cleaning the rocky shore at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg, Cape Town of marine debris every new moon. The marine environment is threatened by climate change and pollution, most significantly plastic pollution. This group evolved into the registered non-profit organisation The Beach Co-op with a mission to protect the marine environment.

We work with citizens and corporate companies to raise awareness of the scale of the problem and to shift behaviour, particularly around packaging choices. We work to reduce and eliminate the use of single-use plastics from design and production to consumption and disposal. We use beach cleanups and a citizen science methodology as a collaborative entry point to identify trends in marine pollution, particularly plastic waste. Beach cleanups are conducted with corporate partners and the broader public.

The Beach Co-op, in collaboration with Prof. Peter Ryan of the University of Cape Town’s Percy FitzPatrick Institute, has designed a unique Dirty Dozen methodology that enables participants to log the 12 most commonly found items on the beach during each cleanup. It is a transformative tool in that it gives cleanup participants a clear sense of the problem, and of the primary pollution culprits. It also provides them with the evidence they need to make changes in their own consumption habits, and to call on producers and retailers to look for more sustainable packaging solutions.

Since inception, we have conducted more than 100 beach cleanups, reached more than 6 000 participants, cleaned more than 111 kilometres of coastline and collected more than 6 tons of plastic waste. We are based in Cape Town but have established strong partnerships in other coastal metropoles – Port Elizabeth, Durban – as well as in Johannesburg to implement cleanups in these locations. One of our most successful campaigns ran in July 2019. In collaboration with WWF SA and Twyg, we asked our followers to pledge to eliminate one of the top three Dirty Dozen items from their buying patterns. One participant, Jenn Symatt, noted that: “I’m chip mad and decided to stop eating them, it’s been tough but I’ve discovered roasted chickpeas as a substitute and what a win.”

The Beach Co-op believes that behavioural change is driven by awareness, emotional connection and support in implementation. We focus on building an ocean-loving culture that is supported by scientific knowledge and celebrated through music, art and sport. We partner with music festivals, art groups, sporting clubs and schools to engage them in cleanup activities linked to lifestyle activities. A cleanup participant, Nina Bothma, has this to say about our events: “What a wonderful organisation, I especially love the Dirty Dozen method that you use and all the wonderful work that you do.”