International Coastal Cleanup day 2020
Katja Laingui
Katja is the Education Operations Manager at the Aquarium Foundation. She gives support to the education team and the Foundation staff as a whole, with her attention to detail and project management skills. She also has a degree in sustainable development and one of her interests involves how to make people more interested in nature and the ecosystem services that we depend on. She is the author of the regular 'K's Kreature Feature' blog.
International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) day ‘celebrated’ its 34th year this year. Started by the Ocean Conservancy in 1986, the global event has since seen more than 16 million volunteers collect pollution off beaches, and other natural spaces, around the world. The total amount of pollution collected since 1986: 152 860 tonnes. ICC is a day that, in an ideal world, should not exist. While collecting plastic, and other, pollution off beaches is important, the real value of such a day is in the awareness it creates around the impact that plastic pollution has on our environment. We sincerely hope that picking up your 20th straw, or your 14th ear bud stick, makes you reconsider using these single-use items in the future and thus prevent them from landing up in nature in the first place. The day should make everyone rethink their relationship with plastic and the role that we all play in refusing, reducing, reusing and repurposing as much as we can, whenever we can.
Samantha the penguin picking up litter

(Image credit: Devin Tull) 

Hout Bay beach looked quite clean on the surface, however upon closer inspection and after two hours of cleaning, our efforts resulted in 162 kg of trash collected. Most of it was small stuff, with lollipop sticks and ear bud sticks definitely coming on top of most picked up items. Weirdest find: a Nokia cell phone. The total weight of all of the trash collected on the day is much higher, as this does not include the water surface and underwater cleanups, or the bags that were dropped off on the other side of the beach.

Samantha the penguin picking up litter

162 kg of trash collected 19 September 2020 (Image credit: Katja Laingui) 

Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal

A cross-section of the, mostly, plastic pollution items that were found on the day (Image credit: Anzio Abels) 

The day was truly one of collaboration, as several organisations worked together to make the day a success. Plastics SA has been the coordinator of ICC in South Africa for years, and they make sure that all of the trash collected is disposed of responsibly. Unfortunately, all of the trash collected has to be taken to landfill, as most of it is not recyclable. PETCO also joined in this year to assist us with some spot prizes, including some cool hats, buffs and bags made out of recycled plastic bottles. 

Cleanup participants who earned themselves some cool PETCO gear, made out of recycled plastic bottles (Image credit: Hayley McLellan) 

We want to thank all of the other organisations that decided to join and collaborate with us on the day. We had staff from Sealand Gear, Oceans Alive, Captain Fanplastic, Nampak, The Good Machine and a whole group of kids from the Hout Bay United Football Community (HBUFC) club.

On the other side of the harbour, Sentinel Ocean Alliance, Sea the Bigger Picture and Oceano Reddentes also hosted a cleanup, making sure that all of the Hout Bay beach and harbour front was thoroughly tidied up. 


Yanga from Captain Fanplastic reading to the youngsters of the cleanup. Can you say RRRRR? (Image credit: Katja Laingui)

The team from Sealand Gear sorting and counting the trash they collected – a total of 6 kg (Image credit: Katja Laingui) 

Kids from the Hout Bay United Football Community also joined us and enjoyed their day at the beach.

Members of the Hout Bay United Football Community joined us on the day (Image credit: Wezley Lewis) 

While we were busy on the beach, we partnered up with a team from Animal Ocean and the NSRI, who both did a boat cleanup in the harbour, picking up anything that they could collect from the surface of the water.

Another partnership was with Cleeve Robertson, CEO of the NSRI, who organised an underwater cleanup, together with the Western Cape EMS staff. This was very important, since the harbour floor is littered with various plastic and other items. 

Animal Ocean doing a harbour cleanup (Image credit: Lauren van Noort) 

NSRI boat in Hout Bay harbour

NSRI boat in Hout Bay harbour, conducting a surface water cleanup (Image credit: Wezley Lewis) 

Maryke Musson, our CEO, with Rowan Adams from the Western Cape Emergency Medical Services, who partnered with the NSRI in the underwater cleanup (Image credit: Wezley Lewis) 

Divers getting ready to clean the harbour underwater (Image credit: Wezley Lewis) 


A big part of our ethos at the Aquarium Foundation is to practice what we preach – and our team is always keen to do their part. Hayley McLellan, our Environmental Change Agent, organised the event and somehow evaded the cameras, but below are some of our other team members cleaning and interacting with the public.

Thank you again to everyone who made this day a success. And thank you to those of you who decided to do a mini cleanup close to your home instead. We hope that this day has made a difference in the way you think about plastic and will positively impact the environment, animals and you in the future.