Tens of thousands of Norwegians descended on Scandinavian beaches this past Saturday, according to China Global Television Network.

But they weren’t there to sunbathe or ride the summer’s first waves — they were there to pick up litter.

It was the culmination of beach cleaning week, which became an annual Norwegian custom in 2011 in response to the growing problem of ocean pollution both domestically and around the world.

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This year had a record-breaking turnout, according to CGTN.

"The engagement is absolutely enormous. 45,000 are participating in the big Beach Cleaning Day, which is more than double compared to last year," Norway’s minister of climate and environment Ola Elvestuen, told the news agency NTD.

"This is perhaps the fastest growing environmental issue we have internationally, and it is a huge task to reverse the development. Eight million tons of plastic end up in the sea every year," he said.

Even Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg pitched in to help, according to CGTN.

The longtime global citizen has been an environmental champion during her years in office and her appearance at the beach cleanup shows she’s joining the fight against plastic and other kinds of waste.

"We have to reverse the development and ensure that we have clean seas in the future as well," Elvestuen told NTD. “To achieve this, we need to mobilize not only individuals, but also local organizations and companies, and the state must take responsibility.”

All around the world, communities have organized beach cleanup efforts to combat pollution.

In India, people cleaned more than 11,684,500 pounds of trash from the Versova Beach, revitalizing the surrounding ecosystem in the process. And in the UK, citizens regularly clean the area around the River Don when it disgorges plastic waste.

The Ocean Conservancy started the International Coastal Cleanup 30 years ago and since then, 12 million volunteers have cleaned up more than 220 million pounds of trash.

The problem of pollution has only gotten worse since then, however.

More than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been created since 1960, weighing as much as 1 billion elephants, and 75% of this plastic hasn’t been recycled, according to a report published in Science Advances.

Eight million metric tons of plastic, meanwhile, make it into the world’s oceans year, which is like emptying a garbage truck full of plastic waste into an ocean each minute.

Read More: Fed Up With Plastic, This Man Got Kenya to Ban It

If current trends continue, 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will exist in the world by 2050. That’s 1.6 metric tons — or the size of a midsize car — for every human on the planet.

Community engagement is an important part of the solution, but as Elvestuen acknowledges, states have to create regulations to minimize the production of waste and manage its life span.

Global Citizen campaigns to end single-use plastic production around the world and you can take action on this issue here.  


Defend the Planet

45,000 Norwegians Join Massive Beach Clean-Up

By Joe McCarthy