The world’s largest beach cleanup takes place on September 15.

By Marisa Spyker
September 12, 2018
Klaus Vedfeldt/Getty Images

If you’re not quite sold on the old adage that everything is bigger in Texas, consider the time one woman—fed up with litter on her hometown Texas beaches—organized a small coastal cleanup that quickly snowballed into a massive global movement.

That’s the story of the International Coastal Cleanup, spearheaded by Ocean Conservancy alum Linda Maraniss as a statewide beach cleanup in 1986. Thirty-two years later, the worldwide event is the largest global volunteer effort to help the oceans.

This year, the annual event falls on Saturday, September 15—and, if it’s anything like years past, it’s bound to be a game changer for the oceans. In 2017 alone, 789,000 people participated from more than 100 nations, collecting 20 million pieces of trash, ranging from cigarette butts (2.4 million total) to a six-seater golf cart (recovered in Bermuda). In its three decades history, 220 million pounds of trash have been removed from the environment.

Related: Meet Our 2017 Ocean Heroes:

Aside from the obvious benefits of cleaning up our beaches, the global pickup also provides much-needed insight into the types of pollutants plaguing our oceans (hint: plastics).

“Over the years, we have seen plastics creeping into the top-10 list, displacing items like rope, beverage and paper bags,” Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, told NBC News earlier this year. “But [2017] is the first year that all 10 of the top-10 items collected are made of plastic. Given that plastic production is rising, this could be the start of a long and troubling trend.”

To get in on the action this year, find a cleanup near you with the Ocean Conservancy’s interactive map, which allows you to search based on your region, state, or home address. (It shouldn’t be too hard to find one; there are 947 in California alone! Live inland? Find—or organize—one at your nearest lake or river, since all waterways lead to the ocean.)

As an added incentive, turn your finds into a work of art and share a photo of it on Instagram using the hashtag #SurfriderFound for a chance to win a prize.

So, whether you’re on the coast or inland, if there’s one thing you do on September 15, join the effort and pick up a piece (or several) of trash in honor of our oceans and waterways.