Beach cleanup volunteering programs are as crucial as ever. Just one look at these alarming statistics tells you that:
- At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
- Beach pollution affects more than 800 species of wildlife, including seabirds, sea turtles, and seals (Natural Resources Defense Council).
- During International Coastal Clean Up Day in the USA, more than 2.4 million pounds of waste items were collected on U.S. beaches. The most common pieces of trash were cigarette butts and food wrappers.
These are shocking numbers. Our beaches, coastlines, and oceans, and the wildlife that calls these areas home, are in danger. This puts all of us in danger, too.
When you consider that a whopping 91% of plastic isn’t recycled, it doesn’t seem like the situation will improve. However, there is reason for optimism. We can help stop plastic pollution and littering on beaches and along the coastlines.
The answer is to join a beach cleanup volunteering program abroad. Due to pollution from economic development projects, waste mismanagement, an abundance of plastic garbage, and a shortage of environmental conservation resources and awareness campaigns, many beaches around the world — from Asia to Africa to South America — suffer from pollution, litter, and poor water and sand quality.
By taking action as a beach cleaning volunteer, you can help reduce beach litter and plastic pollution, as well as increase awareness among locals about how to keep the coastlines in good shape.
What you’ll do as a beach cleanup volunteer
Want to help preserve the world’s beaches?
Volunteer abroad in regions greatly affected by pollution or areas where conservation is deeply crucial. By going where your help is most needed, you can have the biggest impact. For instance, you could volunteer in biologically diverse coastal areas or an urban area that suffers from high pollution.
Below are some examples of what you can do in a beach cleanup volunteering program:
- Environmental Volunteering in the Philippines: As an environmental volunteer with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), you’ll help with mangrove rehabilitation. Mangroves protect shorelines by preventing erosion and filtering pollutants (which maintains water quality).
- Great Barrier Reef Conservation: Join GoEco in Australia and help preserve the world’s largest coral reef system. As a volunteer, you’ll get scuba diving certification and help collect vital data alongside coral reef experts. This is one of GoEco’s top programs, so be sure to reserve your place early!
- Beach Conservation in Costa Rica: Head to the Nicoya peninsula along the Pacific coast with Maximo Nivel. As a beach conservation volunteer, you’ll help with trail and beach maintenance, research, education and community outreach. It all goes towards preserving the local coastline and National Park.
- Sea Turtle Conservation in Mexico: Join Projects Abroad as a sea turtle volunteer. Work with endangered species like the Olive Ridley Turtle. Duties include beach cleanups, which improve nesting grounds for these turtles, as well as nighttime patrols to help stop poaching.
Do these beach cleanup volunteering programs sound interesting? If yes, then read on!
Best Beach Cleanup Volunteer Programs
In this article, we highlight more of the best beach cleanup volunteer organizations and their projects. See what programs catch your eye and apply.
A world leader in affordable volunteer travel, International Volunteer HQ began in 2007 and has hosted more than 130,000 past volunteers. GoAbroad ranked IVHQ as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization in 2022. IVHQ provides a variety of high-quality, safe, and impactful opportunities for those looking to serve as a beach cleanup volunteer.
As a volunteer with International Volunteer HQ, you’ll have many options for your beach cleanup volunteering placement. Check out two recommended programs below!
Journey to wonderful Nusa Penida, an island off of Bali. There, you’ll help with turtle care, participate in environmental education workshops, and clean up the beaches and coastlines. Specifically, your work will help reduce the threats Green Sea and Hawksbill turtles face from human consumption of eggs, overfishing, and pollution. As a volunteer, you’ll help clean trash, maintain beach nesting grounds, protect eggs, nurture young turtles, and rescue injured turtles.
Make your way to Auckland. As a coastal and beach cleanup volunteer, you’ll help preserve the area’s stunning landscapes and restore important parts of traditional Māori land. Key volunteer tasks include collecting litter from estuaries, harbors, and inlets. You’ll also get the chance to work on projects that upcycle ocean plastics into art murals for classrooms. Sounds amazing, right?
Founded in 2006, GoEco has placed more than 20,000 volunteers around the world. Created by experienced volunteers, GoEco’s team has carefully vetted every project to guarantee high standards for quality and safety. This has enabled them to become a leading ecotourism company, with recommendations from major publications such as USA Today and Boston Globe.
With more than 150 projects across 40 countries, GoEco offers plenty of volunteer abroad opportunities, including beach cleanup volunteering programs. Take a look at two excellent projects below.
Live and volunteer in a private island paradise off the coast of Belize. As a beach and ocean preservation volunteer, you’ll assist in various marine preservation tasks. During the program, you’ll become PADI Open Water certified. And during free time, you can explore wonderful mainland Belize. Ready to go?
Scuba dive into the surreal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, where you’ll help clean up pollution that threatens marine life. By joining this program, you’ll join a movement of passionate people dealing with the global challenge of litter. Your work goes a long way in protecting the ocean, as well as keeping the beaches pristine. During your free time, you’ll have access to the charming city of Portugal. How amazing is that?
Journey to Costa Rica beaches to help with beach conservation. Volunteers in this program help to protect sea turtles nesting and hatching, release baby sea turtles to the ocean, and also participates in beach cleanups, and help to raise awareness on coastal and marine ecosystem conservation.
Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel is a leading provider of volunteer programs in Latin America. Maximo Nivel directly oversees their projects and partners with locally-based institutes, ensuring excellent overall quality and safety. Not only are their programs impactful and immersive, but they’re also affordable.
If you want to serve as a beach cleanup volunteer in Costa Rica or Guatemala, look no further than Maximo Nivel, one of the most highly-rated organizations on Volunteer Forever.
Head to the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Coast, one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions. As a beach conservation volunteer in Costa Rica, you’ll handle trail and beach maintenance. Duties include doing beach cleanups, educating locals and tourists about conservation, clearing out invasive plants, and collecting research data. During your free time, you have a gorgeous ocean and nature at your fingertips!
Help increase the birth rate and survival of baby turtles along Guatemala’s Pacific Coast. As a sea turtle volunteer, you’ll help with beach cleanup, nighttime patrols, research collection, and community outreach. The program is led by international researchers and local biologists, so expect to learn a lot as you help save the turtles.
Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad is known for trusted programs that make a real impact, and has earned recognition from the likes of CNBC, BBC, and Time. The organization is highly respected for their commitment to safety, local communities, and volunteer support. To date, Projects Abroad has placed more than 132,000 volunteers abroad.
Among the best volunteer abroad program providers, Projects Abroad runs excellent projects around the globe, including ocean and beach cleanup volunteer programs. Take a look at two great programs below.
Help protect an endangered species and preserve the local ecosystem at Galbokka Beach. Duties include night patrols to protect turtle nesting grounds, beach cleanup volunteering, and hosting community awareness programs. You’ll get to live and work with fellow volunteers who are passionate about beach and marine conservation, and explore the local area during your free time.
Gain a PADI Advanced Open Water certificate as you contribute to important coral reef conservation work off the coast of Koh Tao. Duties include:
- Taking part in survey dives
- Gaining conservation skills and knowledge
- Planting and maintaining coral reefs
- Joining beach cleanup volunteering efforts
During your free time, the tropical island of Koh Tao awaits. This beach cleanup volunteer program sounds fun, right?
Founded in 2004, African Impact has been offering volunteers of all ages, including teens and high school students ages 16 and up, the chance to do service work in Africa. Voted the World’s Top Volunteer Organization by volunteers on GoAbroad four years in a row, the organization takes great care to ensure the health and safety of volunteers. Dedicated to creating real, measurable change, African Impact has a variety of great programs, from volunteer projects focused on uplifting local communities to wildlife conservation projects focused on Africa’s Big 5.
African Impact also has projects that aim to conserve the coastlines of the Mother Continent. Read about two amazing beach cleanup volunteering programs below.
Work with leading experts as you assist in the research and conservation of manta rays, whale sharks, and marine turtles. You’ll help protect coral reefs at risk of exploitation, as well as create and present classes on marine biology, ecology, and conservation. As part of community engagement efforts, you’ll also take part in beach cleanup volunteer tasks. What’s amazing about this program is that you’ll also live right by the beach!
While not focused on beach cleanup volunteering, this program involves important conservation efforts to preserve the ocean and coastline. As a volunteer, you’ll monitor dolphins in their natural habitat and study the impact of tourism on their behavior, as well as collect vital data on coral reefs. You’ll also get to teach local youth about the importance of conservation, including why it’s vital to care for the local beaches.
Volunteering Solutions began in 2007 and, to date, has placed more than 17,000 volunteers in impactful projects. With 150+ projects across 27 countries, Volunteering Solutions is known for their affordable, high-quality and impactful service projects. From teaching and construction projects to beach cleanup volunteer projects, they have a variety of options for international volunteers.
To learn more about Volunteering Solutions and apply to their program, visit their website here (UK readers, please visit their UK site here). Also, check out the two great programs below or beach cleanup volunteering.
Experience life on the beaches of Ghana, and do your part by picking up litter and cleaning with local environmentalists. You’ll also plant trees along the coasts to protect against erosion. Community outreach is a part of this beach cleanup volunteer program too, and you’ll get the chance to teach locals in Accra about the importance of having clean beaches and waters.
Journey to the majestic Mediterranean, where you’ll work as a conservation volunteer and help restore the ecosystem of the region. Duties include mapping seaweed, looking after monk seals, monitoring wild cats along the Ionian Sea and more. While not a standard beach cleanup volunteer program, you’ll learn a lot about coastline and environmental protection during your time there.
Are you in search of a life-changing experience and an opportunity to make a genuine difference in communities around the world? Involvement Volunteers International (IVI), founded in 1989, invites individuals to join the ranks of over 25,000 volunteers who’ve made a lasting impact in 112 projects spread across 23 countries.
Why IVI Stands Out
With a legacy spanning over 34 years, IVI distinguishes itself as a non-profit that actively supports local communities, particularly in the South Pacific regions of Fiji and Vanuatu, as well as in India. Unlike many organizations, IVI has built many of its projects from the ground up. Beyond offering travel and volunteering experiences, they play a significant role in the humanitarian sector, aiding impoverished communities and refugees. They also provide university students the opportunity to fulfill their practicum hours in sectors such as mental health, medical, teaching, and veterinary projects.
Beyond Volunteering: Internships, Teaching, and More
Moreover, for those eyeing internships, or destinations like Peru, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ghana, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, IVI offers openings in the medical, teaching, physiotherapy, dental, and nursing fields. IVI’s internships guarantee specific hours, and for university placements, the necessary documentation and supervisor approvals are given. Although IVI doesn’t provide paid teaching abroad, they offer teaching projects at almost every destination, catering to various age groups, predominantly aged 3-12.
Family and Group Adventures
Whether one is a solo adventurer, a family unit, a group, or a teen, IVI has projects tailored to fit each need. Their family-friendly ventures encompass kindergarten teaching, construction, environmental initiatives, and animal care projects. For larger groups, IVI presents specialized itineraries combining volunteering programs with engaging activities, making them an ideal choice for school groups.
For volunteers aged 16-17, a signed parental consent from their guardians is a prerequisite. Some of IVI’s projects also accommodate younger kids, ensuring they remain under parental or guardian watch.
Interested in learning what sets IVI apart? Dive deeper into their story by visiting “Who We Are” and “Why IVI?” on their official website: volunteering.org.au
Embarking on a journey with IVI promises to enrich both the individual and the world at large. The adventure awaits!
If you are an outdoorsy person, consider a volunteer trip to southern Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica for a 2 weeks project, and experience pura vida (“simple life” or Costa Ricans’ way of life)! This project is focused on environmental conservation that includes beach clean ups, trail maintenance of the nature reserve, and assisting in research and education. You will get the chance to see a variety of native wildlife in the nature reserve and know that your work is towards protecting them. The tasks can vary based on your experience and season. Meals and accommodation are included in the program fees, which is $935USD for 2 weeks. But note that accommodation at the reserve is basic but comfortable. During your free time, there are many famous tourist sites nearby such as Arenal Volcano, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Monteverde Cloud Forest. Click here for more details!
This project is located in the beautiful beach town of Hua Hin, which has some of the most incredible beaches in the world. Through this project you will take part in beach conservation, educating the local community on environmental conservation, and help in a mangrove nursery. Specific tasks include watering the plants, preparing seed and soil, planting mangroves in the nursery, cleaning up the beaches, and educating the community on effects of climate change, the need to protect the environment, as well as sustainable environmental habits. Hua Hin is a fisherman beach town, with lots of water activities to keep you busy in your free time. You will stay in a volunteer house with air conditioning (much needed in the tropics!), with 3 meals a day. Click here for more specific information!
Join a Beach Cleanup Volunteer Program & Be a Part of the Solution
To preserve the world’s beaches, we not only need to continually clean up human waste, but also we need to implement strategies for a better future. As a beach cleanup volunteer, you can help in a variety of ways, from protecting turtle nesting grounds and planting important trees to picking up plastic pollution. In doing so, you can help turn the tides and give our beaches the prospect of a healthier future.
When looking through beach cleaning volunteer abroad programs, consider your interests, budget, and skills. Your choices abound, with beach cleanup volunteer programs ranging from Australasia and the Pacific to South America.
Good luck with your volunteer abroad adventure!