Ambition Strategy Impact

Combatting plastic pollution

Amplifying the impact of River Cleanup

River Cleanup is on a mission to prevent 100 million kilograms of plastic from reaching our oceans by 2025. With our broad sustainability experience, we helped River Cleanup define how to make an even greater positive impact on the environment and scale up its activities.

Every year over 11 billion kilograms of plastics enter our oceans, and the amount of mismanaged plastic waste is expected to grow. River Cleanup, a Belgian not-for-profit organisation, is committed to preventing plastics from ending up in rivers and oceans by cleaning and raising awareness, educating and inspiring students of all ages, and transforming organisations.

“We are very proud to have collected our final kilograms of plastic to reach 1 million, but for River Cleanup this is only the beginning of a larger and more ambitious journey. Our dream is to prevent 100 million kilograms of plastic from reaching our oceans by 2025 by cleaning rivers, educating people, and transforming organisations. We can only realise this if we all do it together!"

Thomas de Groote, founder of River Cleanup

River Cleanup model

River Cleanup has developed a model that focuses on three key pillars:

  • Clean : Clean up plastics and make people aware of the problem by showing them garbage can be found in and around rivers where they grew up, live, and work. This pillar consists of cleaning rivers in Belgium and four other countries, as well as additional activities such as River Sunday, World Cleanup Day, and worldwide river cleanup actions.
  • Educate : Educate and inspire students and give them an eye-opening experience. River Cleanup runs workshops in elementary and secondary schools and universities, focusing on the impact of plastic consumption and plastic waste, but also on alternatives and use of recycled plastics. The organisation also collects waste at schools in countries where the waste management system is failing.
  • Transform : Create a network of organisations, scientists, researchers, businesses and policy makers to create cross-border and cross-value chain solutions by acting as a facilitator, and start dialogues with governments and local authorities about plastics and waste management systems.

     

A strong partnership

To realise its ambition of 100 million, River Cleanup needed a clear strategy on how to get there, which is why it partnered with Deloitte. With our broad experience in sustainability advisory in the private and public sector, we helped River Cleanup to define the key levers of success to have an even greater positive impact on the environment and scale up its activities.

“At Deloitte we’re living our Purpose by actively making businesses and society more sustainable, and helping tackle the world’s largest challenge of becoming net zero.”

Paul Delasalle, Consulting Sustainability Lead at Deloitte

Together we defined how to anchor the River Cleanup model in Belgium, Ghana, Cameroon, Indonesia and Albania, and investigated which other geographies should be entered, such as Kenya, India or the Philippines. We also looked at the potential of plastic credits to fund River Cleanup operations and how River Cleanup can better help companies that also want to participate in cleanups, create awareness in their organisation or decrease their plastic footprint by, for example, doing a plastics scan.

Making a clear sustainability impact

The study highlights three keys enablers to help River Cleanup grow:

  • Sustainably increase funding through partnerships, plastic credits or selling recycled plastic items.
  • Leveraging technology to bring plastic collection to the next level.
  • Find the right partnerships in the field (e.g. recyclers and similar organizations with the same interest and complementary capabilities).

With more than 650 Deloitte employees taking part in a cleanup in October 2021 and collecting 5,000 kilograms of river waste, our teams were confronted with the reality of preventing 11 billion kilograms from entering our oceans and proud to help River Cleanup define its strategy to reach 100 million.

“In October 2021 we participated in a river cleanup with more than 650 Deloitte employees collecting 5,000 kilograms of plastics. By doing so you realize how big the challenge is to prevent 11 billion kilograms from entering our oceans. I’m very proud to help River Cleanup define its strategy to reach 100 million.”

Brecht D'hont, Manager Sustainability at Deloitte

“We are very ambitious and we realise that there are key challenges ahead such as finding funding and leveraging the right technologies to scale our operations. By developing the right partnerships and creating a solid organisational structure to grow, I’m confident we will realise our goal to prevent plastics from ending up in rivers and oceans.”

Thomas de Groote, founder of River Cleanup