JULY, 2020
By Carla Wessels

Have you heard of the Dirty Dozen?

No, not the 1960s war film.

The Dirty Dozen is a data collection methodology used by organisations and researchers to track litter and trash on our beaches.

Plastic is threatening our oceans.

Our oceans and marine life are being threatened by litter and plastic pollution. According to the UN’s African Renewal Magazine, 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050 if nothing is done to reverse the trend. [2]

Methodologies such as The Dirty Dozen aim to promote ocean clean-ups whilst collecting valuable data at the same time.

Who created the methodology and why?

Prof. Peter Ryan, from the UCT Marine Research Institute and The Beach Co-op, started monitoring beach litter in the 1980s [3] and found that the traditional data collection methods, whilst valuable, were too time-consuming and labour intensive for volunteers.

Aaniyah Omardien, founder of The Beach Co-op, wanted to create a way for beach clean-up volunteers to meaningfully contribute to data collection around beach litter. 

The Dirty Dozen methodology [4] was created to help determine whether clean-up initiatives and programmes were making an impact on the ocean pollution problem.

What items are included in ‘The Dirty Dozen’?

12 items were selected as the main culprits of beach litter across the world. These items are:

Cooldrink bottles

Water bottles

Cooldrink bottle lids

Plastic bags

Chip packets

Sweet wrappers

Plastic straws


Lollypop sticks

Cigarette lighters

Fishing lines

Glow sticks

How does it work?

  1. Download the Marine Debris Tracker App on IOS or Android.
  2. Select “Tracking” and choose “The Beach Co-op”.
  3. Log your Dirty Dozen items as you clean up the beach.
  4. Add a description of the cleanup (pointers are given)
  5. Press submit!

Remember you can also collect litter and items that are not included in The Dirty Dozen, however, only data about The Dirty Dozen should be recorded.

For more information on this process, and how to get involved, contact The Beach Co-op on [email protected].


This July, Greenpop has partnered with CAN DO! to explore the environmental impact of aluminium cans, and whether cans are a more sustainable alternative to plastic.

Are cans more sustainable than plastic? Should you #CHOOSECANS?

Follow the campaign here.



[1] The Beach Co-op: The Dirty Dozen

[2] UN-African Renewal: Plastics pose biggest threat to oceans

[3] The Beach Co-op: Lessons from the Dirty Dozen

[4] Youtube – The Beach Co-op: The Dirty Dozen Methodology explained

[5] The Beach Co-op: The Dirty Dozen Clean-ups

[6] The Beach Co-op: The Dirty Dozen Information Pack

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