The International Coastal Cleanup began more than 30 years ago, when communities rallied together with the common goal of collecting and documenting the trash littering their coastline. The movement was catalyzed by the passion and spirit of two committed individuals. Back in 1986, Linda Maraniss moved to Texas from Washington, DC, where she had been working for Ocean Conservancy. She’d been inspired by the work her Ocean Conservancy colleague Kathy O’Hara was doing on a groundbreaking report called Plastics in the Ocean: More than a Litter Problem that would be published the next year.
Linda and Kathy reached out to the Texas General Land Office, local businesses and other dedicated ocean-lovers, and planned what would become Ocean Conservancy’s first Cleanup. They asked volunteers to go beyond picking up trash and record each item collected on a standardized data card in order to identify ways to eliminate ocean trash in the future.
The Cleanup has grown immensely in the 30 years since Linda and Kathy’s first Cleanup. Volunteers from states and territories throughout the U.S. and more than 100 countries come together each year and participate in a Cleanup event near them.