July 1-7 is Clean Beaches Week, an entire week to celebrate our beautiful beaches and ensure they stay clean, safe, and lovely for generations to come. Clean Beaches Week combines the spirit of Earth Day with the fun of Independence Day and pumps up the fun for an entire week. July 4 is the most popular beach day of the entire year, but it also results in the most litter on our shores. Clean Beaches Week is a way to educate beach-goers on proper beach behavior before the big day.

History of Clean Beaches Week

Started in 2003, the week has drawn enormous public support with over 150 coastal governors, mayors, and county commissions having now issued proclamations in support of the week. But this isn’t by any means a new subject. 


Humans have been harming the ocean’s ecosystem for hundreds of years with plastics, toxic waste, oil spills, and much more. Land-based waste products end up in seas, oceans, and beaches. Ocean trash affects the health of wildlife, people, and local economies. The trash in the water and on the shore can be ingested by wildlife, or entangle animals with lethal consequences. Plastic also attracts and concentrates other pollutants from surrounding seawater, posing a contamination risk to those species that then eat it. Scientists are studying the impacts of that contamination on fish and shellfish as well as the possible impact it may have on human health.


Plastic has been found in 59% of seabirds such as albatross and pelicans, in 100% of sea turtle species, and more than 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, the Arcata Recycling Center, under the leadership of Wes Chesbro (who has since served a long career in the California State Legislature), began running beach cleanups in search of recyclable material. Since then, hundreds of other communities have followed in their footsteps with efforts like Clean Beaches Week to make up for the danger littering has brought to our planet. 

Clean Beaches Week timeline


The Biggest Clean-Up in the World

Mumbai is home to the world's largest beach cleanup. For the past 119 Sundays, volunteers have toiled in the sludge to remove 12,000 tonnes of plastic from Versova Beach -- and they're still going strong.


California Plastic

California bans plastic bags.


Clean Beaches Week A Success

Both The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions enacting Clean Beaches Week by unanimous consent.


The Start of Something Good

The first beach clean-ups took place.


Hitting the Beach

The perception of beaches changed from a perilous place of danger to a sought-after escape.

Clean Beaches Week FAQs

Why is it important to clean the beach?

Keeping beaches clean is important because we need to reduce the volume of trash and consequently pollution that is going into our oceans. By better protecting the oceans, we are better protecting the huge array of wildlife than can be found within them.

Which ocean is the dirtiest?

The North Pacific Ocean is said to be the most polluted ocean in the world, with pollution particles estimated to measure around 2 trillion.

Do beach clean-ups make a difference?

While Beach cleanups don’t rid the ocean of plastic and trash, they do increase awareness about pollution and educate individuals through action. Overall, beach cleanups are a worthy cause to bring people together to focus on the environment and learn ways to protect it.


  1. Plastic overload

    Eight million metric tons: That's how much plastic we dump into the oceans each year.

  2. 5 garbage patches

    There’s so much junk at sea, the debris has formed five giant garbage patches around the world, the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash covering an area twice the size of Texas.

  3. Worse over time

    When plastic eventually degrades (which takes 400 years for most plastics), the process releases chemicals that further contaminates the sea.

  4. The weight of our mistakes

    By 2050, ocean plastic is expected to outweigh all of the ocean’s fish.

  5. Dead Zones

    In 2017, oceanographers detected a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico nearly the size of New Jersey — the largest dead zone ever measured.

Clean Beaches Week Activities

  1. Go to the beach!

    Each year 180 million Americans make 2 billion trips to the beach! Celebrate Clean Beaches Week by heading to a beach near you. Consider making a further positive impact by traveling via public transport or carpooling to reduce your carbon emissions

  2. Clean-up a beach

    If you go to the beach for fun, always make sure you "leave no trace," taking everything you brought to the beach back with you. You can even go a step further by participating in a beach clean-up to collect trash that others have left behind.

  3. Watch and Learn

    The Earth has over 372,000 miles of coastline, and each mile is special in its own way. Learn more about the beaches of the world by watching a documentary like Mission Blue, The Blue Planet, or A Plastic Ocean.

Why We Love Clean Beaches Week

  1. Beaches are for everybody

    Beaches are a public space open to everyone, a place where all people can come together to enjoy the sand, the sun, and of course, the cool water!

  2. The original A/C

    Today if it's too hot out, many people can enjoy the luxury of staying indoors in the air conditioning. But for generations, and even now, for people without air conditioning, the beach, where the cool water and sea breeze keeps the air a few degrees cooler than inland, is one of the only places to get relief from the heat!

  3. Gateways to the ocean

    8 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the world's oceans each year, and the beach is the ocean's front door! By caring for the beach and keeping it clean, we also care for our oceans, which make up 70% of the planet and are home to over 1 million known species (and maybe up to 9 million unknown ones).

Also on Wed Jul 3, 2024...