Kenya’s beach clean up clears 14 tons of plastics and other debris


(Posted 25th September 2016)

An estimated 14,000 kilograms of plastic and other non-biodegradable waste was collected last Saturday along the Kenyan coastal strip in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste dumped into the ocean and to highlight the impact plastic is having locally and globally. The 3 hour exercise carried out by teams of volunteers was part of a global beach cleaning initiative dubbed “The International Coastal Cleanup”.

The initiative, now in its 30th year, is organised by the Ocean Conservancy in the USA to create awareness about marine conservation and the need to reduce marine pollution. It is estimated that 8 billion tons of plastic is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. Last year, globally, volunteers from more than 100 countries collected more than 8 million Kgs of plastic waste.

The plastic waste, which is broken down into small pieces, is mistaken for food by birds, fish, sea turtles, dolphins, whales and many other animals. This results in ill health and the death of millions of marine animals and birds each year.

Plastic also enters the human food chain through fish, soil and water. Its chemicals are also leaching out into the water and other environments causing pollution and threats to human health. Plastic waste also pollutes our beaches making them unattractive to tourists so also threatening our tourism economy.

All the world’s oceans now have huge amounts of plastic waste circulating in ocean currents known as gyres. Some of these areas such as the North Pacific gyre are as large as Kenya!

The Kenya cleanup exercise, as part of the global initiative, was organized by flip-flop recycling company Ocean-Sole, through its Foundation, the Watamu Marine Association and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The clean-up took place along the whole Kenyan coast including Kiunga, Lamu, Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi, Takaungu, Vipingo, Kuruwitu, Mombasa, Diani, Wasini, Mkwiro and Msambweni beach towns. Participants included schools, community and environmental groups, hotels and corporates and government offices.

Speaking after the exercise, marine conservationist and Ocean Sole founder Julie Church said:

It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more waste in our oceans than fish globally, this international beach clean-up, though small, is a giant step in addressing the growing problem of plastic waste.” She added: “We have been overwhelmed by all the sponsorship and support for this year’s International Coastal Cleanup and we have nearly doubled the number of volunteers‘. In addition, Ocean Sole has launched the “Plastic siPoa” challenge and will be awarding social innovators a $10,000 award to those that can provide a sustainable solution to Kenya’s ocean and waterways by either 1) reduce waste; 2) repurpose waste; or 3) revamp waste management.

Steve Trott, a marine conservationist speaking for Watamu Marine Association said:

One of the biggest threats facing the world’s oceans today is pollution from plastic waste. As nations, communities and individuals, we all need to join hands and work together to reduce this threat. The International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s biggest annual volunteering event and it is a great demonstration of peoples concern for our oceans and what we can achieve together. The 2016 Kenya event was the most successful yet‘.

For the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Warden of Watamu Marine National Park added:

We really appreciate the community and the stakeholders for making the ICC event very successful.” He also urged the community to partner with KWS to ensure the conservation agenda is taken to the next level‘.

Ezra Onyango, the Kenyan Coordinator for the Ocean Conservancy then added his own voice when he said:

The ICC 2016 drew many volunteers and more than the previous years, a sign that our efforts in ensuring trash free seas are gaining fruits. We would like to thank all the volunteers who came out in large numbers, the sponsors and partners who made the event a success. We shall continue to ensure that all the marine debris and trash collected from such volunteer beach cleanups are put into use‘.


This year’s event received great support and sponsorship from the Kenyan business sector with many companies sending their employees out to clean the beaches. Corporate sponsorship paid for refreshments and transport for school children, beach cleaning equipment and much more.

The main sponsor this year was Base Titanium and their General Manager in charge of Environment & Community Affairs Colin Forbes said:

We are proud to be part of this initiative globally and more specifically here in Kwale. We want to leave a more sustainable Kwale community for generations to come‘.

Other main corporate partners taking part in this initiative included Safarilink, Air Kenya, Kenya Commercial Bank, Posta Kenya, Diamond Trust Bank, Dorman’s and Sustainable Tourism and Travel Agenda among others.

The US Embassy was incredibly supportive of the cause, and helped with the Mombasa team. A film – Our Rising Ocean – was presented on Friday 16th September. The film was shown in conjunction with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s third Our Ocean Conference, which was held on September 15 & 16 in Washington, D.C. The four themes of the conference were: (1) decreasing marine pollution, (2) mitigating the effects of climate change, (3) combating illegal fishing, and (4) increasing marine protected areas. You can learn more about the Our Ocean Conference at

Additional information about the key movers and shakers and the concept of the beach cleanup are shown further below for the benefit of readers who may for the first time hear about this initiative:

About International Coastal Cleanup

The International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest global volunteer effort for our ocean and waterways. Coastal cleanup initiative highlights ocean trash as a serious pollution problem that affects the health of people, wildlife and local economies. In Kenya, the Watamu Marine Association and Ocean Sole Foundation has organised the national event since 2013 and this year all previous records have been broken for the amount of waste collected and the number of volunteers taking part.

About Watamu Marine Association (WMA)

WMA operates marine conservation projects, community based ecotourism and community based waste management enterprises. WMA started its beach cleaning and waste management activities in 2009 by forming award winning dynamic partnerships between the local tourism industry and the community sector. It has set up a plastic and glass recycling centre and created a plastic recycling value chain for Watamu community group’s members. Local people earn an income as beach cleaners and recyclers supported by many Watamu hotels and residents. The latest construction at the Recycling Centre has walls made from 5,000 waste glass and plastic bottles and the Centre is becoming a growing public and tourist attraction. WMA is demonstrating how communities can benefit from best waste management practices by turning “Trash into Cash” or “Pesa kwa Taka Taka.”

The WMA Waste Management Project is working closely with the Kilifi County Government and coastal communities to develop waste management and recycling capacity at the coast.

WMA advocates for the formation of a dynamic national alliance made up of government agencies, private sector, community organisations and NGO’s to tackle the problem of marine waste in Kenya.

In July this year WMA was invited to present its project and vision at the International Symposium on Capacity Building for Sustainable Oceans in Tokyo, Japan.
About Ocean Sole Foundation

Passionate about the ocean, its ecosystems and marine wildlife, Ocean Sole was founded by Julie Church, to ‘flip the flop’ and use waste to generate change in the ocean, and the way we as humans see waste.

Using discarded flipflops found littered on beaches and in waterways of Kenya, Ocean Sole produces handmade products by a team of skilled artisans in Kenya, and exports the creations to over 25 countries, each carrying the message about the importance of our oceans and the need to reduce plastic waste, whilst also bringing smiles to people all over the world.

Ocean Sole is a Kenyan solution to a global problem of waste, in an effort to raise awareness about plastics, and stop the Ocean becoming the world’s dumpyard.

Ocean Sole Foundation, borne out of Ocean Sole the business, aims to support initiatives that fit with their focus of TRACE – T for trade based solutions; R for research of alternative ways to curb the plight of plastic and ensure better management of the marine environment; A for advocacy for better management of the marine environment, and plastics; C for conservation of the ocean, its species, habitats and ecosystems and E for education for a better world.

The foundation has proposed that the Government of Kenya, like the Government’s in TZ and Rwanda, ban the use of plastic bags. Ocean Sole is so passionate about this problem they have launched a ‘Plastic is NOT cool’ or Plastic si Poa (in Kiswahili) awareness campaign. She also advocated for a USD 10,000 reward for the most sustainable solution to waste in Kenya’s oceans and waterwaysby the next ICC day, Sept 2017. Rules and guidelines to be found on by October 1, 2016.

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