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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


European Commission (
Intergovernmental organization

    Worldwide awareness-raising and ocean activism campaign to mobilise for the Planet against marine pollution; annually over 40,000 participants in coastal cleaning events and millions of social media followers. Based on bottom-up local initiatives with a shared global message and branding. “The ocean starts with you!” is the key message of #EUBeachCleanup. Whether it is by participating in one of the many cleanup event organised by EU staff and partners or through changing your daily consumption and waste management habits. Organised since 2018, the campaign has been rapidly expanding. #EUBeachCleanup is organised annually over 4-6 weeks, peaking in the second half of September.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    This SDG action is the result of exemplary cooperation between the European Commission and the European External Action Service, in close coordination with the UN. The worldwide network of EU Delegations and Representations have been instrumental to the success of the campaign the campaign. Local initiative and partnerships are at the core of the organisation. Whilst HQ provides common branding, messages and general support, each local EU/EC office implements the campaign in a fashion adapted to the individual circumstances, in the process building media partnerships and networks with local NGOs, communities, companies, etc. As the campaign has gradually become an annual fixture, beach clean events are increasingly accompanied by high-level appearances, media engagements, local educational actions, awareness-raising workshops, etc. A cost-free partnership with Belgian cartoon The Smurfs ® has provided a globally recognised and appealing public “face” to the campaign, greatly supporting external communication, not least on social media.


    #EUBeachCleanup took off in 2018, with 72 events taking place in 60 countries. Events varied from small team-buildings with 10-20 people, to mass clean-ups with thousands of participants. The waste collected ranged from 10 bags in Australia up to 47 tons in Montenegro. In 2019, 77 events were organised in 69 countries, gathering 40,000+ volunteers. The 2020 campaign had to factor in coronavirus restrictions, instead encouraging citizens to take action from home and their immediate surroundings. Nonetheless, 56 physical clean-up events with 1000s of socially-distanced participants were organised in 50 countries. The Digital campaign always generate high engagement on social media coming from a diverse public. From international organisations and local authorities to individual citizens, schools, fishing communities, scientists and divers. The 2019 campaign generated well over 100M impressions and reached around 24 M on Twitter and Instagram.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The campaign is unparalleled in terms of cost-efficiency. At corporate level, it runs on a near-zero budget. Locally, thanks to partner support of, costs are limited to occasional (recyclable) marketing material and solutions to support waste collection. The strength of the campaign is its broad appeal and equal involvement of large self-organised group as much as single persons mobilizing individually. The bottom-up organisation creates a vibrant community that easily adapts to local circumstances. E.g in 2020 with physical events maintained where possible and digital engagements, where the pandemic did not allow for public gatherings.

    Sustainability and replicability

    #EUBeachCleanup has potential to grow further over the coming years – with more countries and new partnerships being gradually added. Organised at very low cost and based on actions adapted to local circumstance, the campaign has significant further potential for mobilisation towards 2030. Since 2019, an increasing number of “cobranded” #EUBeachCleanup actions are organised independent of the official actions initiated by European Union Delegations and European Commission Representations. This underscored that a regular “wave” of citizen-driven ocean activism is underway, thus reinforcing both the replicability and sustainability of the action.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The 2020 edition, though a number of physical actions did eventually take place, was principally organised as a digital campaign encouraging citizens worldwide to take individual or family-based action in their local environments. Under the tagline “The ocean starts with you”, the campaign invited followers to reduce plastic consumption at home, clean the local park etc. – since in many countries the organisation of collective cleaning events was not an option due to restrictions / social distancing. The can-do spirit of the campaign is potentially transferable to other post-pandemic projects.

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    01 March 2018 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    European Commission
    Other beneficiaries

    Centrally, the main drivers are European Commission, the European External Action Service and UN, supported by the Smurfs ©. At local level, partners include public sector (ministries, embassies, schools, municipalities…), media (Euronews, EuropaFM, SKAI…), private companies (e.g. Eneco) and NGOs (e.g. Let’s Do It, Carribean Youth Environment Network, Retake Roma, Jovenes Contra Calendamiendo Cambio Climatico, Oceano Azul Foundation…).

    Contact Information

    Laia, Policy officer SDGs