9 Best Charities That Fight to End Plastic Pollution (Complete 2024 List)

9 Best Charities That Fight to End Plastic Pollution (Complete 2024 List)

By
Dennis Kamprad

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From the top of Mt. Everest to the depths of the Mariana Trench, there is no place on Earth untouched by plastic. Plastic pollution has become a global crisis that poses an immediate threat to our oceans and wildlife. Thankfully, many charities are working relentlessly to combat corporate polluters and reduce plastic waste. So we had to ask: What are the best charities that fight to end plastic pollution?

The best charities that fight to end plastic pollution are the Surfrider Foundation and The 5 Gyres Institute. Other charities, such as The Story of Stuff Project and Plastic Oceans create lasting impact through education and media outreach.

Whether you want to invest in sustainable product alternatives, clean up our oceans, or ban corporate plastic production, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that fight to end plastic pollution are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities That Fight to End Plastic Pollution Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements.

They operate all over the world, from North America to Asia, working for systemic change against plastic pollution.

Many of the charities on this list are dedicated to fighting plastic pollution at its source by changing the way plastic is produced and consumed. Others work diligently to combat the existing plastic build-up in our oceans, rivers, and landfills.

Yet, each organization operates collaboratively across the globe to ensure their goal is met – to eliminate and repair the damage caused by plastic. 

These Are the 9 Best Charities That Fight to End Plastic Pollution in 2024

Below are our favorite charities that fight to end plastic pollution (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

1

Surfrider Foundation: Where the Land Meets the Sea

Logo for Surfrider Foundation
Surfrider Foundation - Plastic Pollution Reduction Now!

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Surfrider Foundation has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. This charity has also earned the highest rating from GuideStar with a Platinum Seal of Transparency. 

“Dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves, and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network.”

The Surfrider Foundation

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What they do:

The Surfrider Foundation tackles plastic pollution head-on by running plastic pollution campaigns across the US. These campaigns advocate for sustainable product alternatives, fight to impose bans and ordinances on single-use plastics, and other impactful projects. 

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Surfrider Foundation has won over 330 legislative victories relating to plastic pollution. Some of these victories include the passing of the Federal Save Our Seas Act and the Microbead-Free Waters Act. Additionally, the Surfrider Foundation has hosted over 2,000 beach clean-ups that resulted in the removal of over 650,000 pounds of trash. 

Ways to contribute:

You can support the Surfrider Foundation by donating to, or petitioning for their campaigns online. You can also be involved hands-on by joining their vast network of volunteer chapters

2

The 5 Gyres Institute: Science to Solutions

Logo for 5 Gyres Institute
How much plastic pollution is ACTUALLY in our oceans?

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Their transparency & ratings:

The 5 Gyres Institute holds a 63% Encompass rating from Charity Navigator. The charity has also earned a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

“Empowering action against the global health crises of plastic pollution through science, education, and advocacy.”

5 Gyres Institute

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What they do:

The 5 Gyres Institute confronts the plastic pollution crisis by conducting scientific research expeditions, utilizing data to educate and engage the public, and applying these findings to reach data-driven solutions. They achieve these objectives through various programs such as Trash Academy, an educational video series, and Trashblitz, which is an initiative that collects data on plastic pollution trends. 

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What they’ve achieved:

The 5 Gyres Institute pioneered the world’s first global estimate of plastic pollution in our oceans. In addition, they’ve conducted 19 research expeditions leading to the publication of 25 scientific journals, papers, and studies. This research has helped fuel impactful legislation like the federal microbead ban which diverted 16 billion microbeads from the ocean. 

Ways to contribute:

You can support The 5 Gyres Institute by donating or hosting a peer-to-peer fundraiser.

3

The Story of Stuff Project: A World Focused on Better Instead of More 

Logo for The Story of Stuff Project
What if a solution to the plastic crisis is closer than we think? | Solving Plastic Series Intro

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Story of Stuff Project has a 100 Encompass Score, the highest rating attainable from Charity Navigator. They also hold a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

“Together, we can transform our take-make-waste economy to build a more just and sustainable future.”

The Story of Stuff Project

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What they do:

The Story of Stuff Project fights the plastic pollution crisis by empowering civic engagement through their Grassroots Grants. These grants sponsor underfunded organizations to help combat plastic pollution at its source and they also sponsor multiple campaigns against corporate plastic polluters. In addition, The Story of Stuff Project also educates the public by way of their award-winning documentaries and learning tools.

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What they’ve achieved:

To date, The Story of Stuff Project has allocated over $200,000 of funding to more than 70 grassroots organizations. As a result, recipients were able to take action and inhibit plastic production with projects Stop Formosa and the Pipelines to Plastic Program. Additionally, their sponsored campaigns have contributed to major collaborative victories like the passing of the Microbead-Free Waters Act. The Story of Stuff Project’s films have also raised awareness by garnering over 50 million online views. 

Ways to contribute:

You can support the Story of Stuff Project by donating online or via check. You can also take the plastic-free pledge, organize a brand audit, or sign their campaign petitions.  

4

Plastic Oceans: Help Create a Wave of Change 

Logo for Plastic Oceans
Plastic Oceans International | Our Work

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Their transparency & ratings:

Plastic Oceans has a 71 Encompass rating on Charity Navigator for finance and accountability. According to Charity Navigator’s Financial Report, 93% of all funding is allocated to their activist programs. 

“A world without plastic pollution and one that embraces circular economy.”

Plastic Oceans

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What they do:

Plastic Oceans sponsors projects that create change in consumer behavior, corporate practices, and public policy. These projects include activist programs like Rethink Refill and global campaigns like Swim Against Plastic. Plastic Oceans is also dedicated to inspiring generational change through youth education and film projects

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What they’ve achieved:

Plastic Oceans’ award-winning film, A Plastic Ocean, fueled massive social impact during the UN Collaboration on World Oceans Day. Plastic Oceans also hosted the 2019 Easter Island Swim Against Plastic event which raised global awareness and removed 720 lbs of waste from the polluted island’s beaches.

Ways to contribute:

You can contribute to Plastic Oceans through their incentivized donation program. You can also take action by volunteering, bringing their educational programs to your community, or signing the Think Reusable – Not Disposable Pledge

5

Plastic Free Restaurants: 86 the Plastic

Logo for Plastic Tides
Sellsage interviews PlasticFreeRestaurants.org

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Their transparency & ratings:

Plastic Free Restaurants has earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

“Eliminating petroleum-based plastic, one restaurant at a time.”

Plastic Free Restaurants

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What they do:

Plastic Free Restaurants fights to eliminate plastic waste by subsidizing the cost difference between petroleum-based plastics and reusable alternatives. They also formulate a list of plastic-free restaurants that obtained that status by choice without subsidies. In addition, Plastic Free Restaurants provides educational resources regarding plastic consumption for restaurants, schools, and consumers

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their inception, Plastic Free Restaurants has eliminated more than 6 million pieces of plastic from 52 restaurants and 5 schools. A case study performed on one of the restaurant subsidies provided by Plastic Free Restaurants showed over 1,700 lbs of annual waste reduction and close to $5,600 in annual savings. 

Ways to contribute:

You can support Plastic Free Restaurants by donating online. You can also stay up-to-date with their projects and achievements by joining their mailing list

6

Upstream: We Heart Reuse

Logo for Upstream
Climate, plastics and reuse

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Their transparency & ratings:

Upstream has earned a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. They were also rated 5-stars across testimonials from donors, supporters, and volunteers on Great Non-Profits.

“At Upstream, we put our whole heart and soul into finding, making, and celebrating practical solutions that help people, businesses, and communities shift from single-use to reuse.”

Upstream

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What they do:

Upstream sparks innovative solutions to plastic pollution by educating on the shortcomings of reactive solutions, funding proactive campaigns, and encouraging political advocacy. Upstream’s Reusable Blitz and Skip The Stuff initiatives reiterate reuse by inhibiting the consumption, and production, of single-use plastics. 

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What they’ve achieved:

Upstream established the National Reuse Network, Government Reuse Forum, and Policy Tracker to empower action and track the progress of reusable plastic alternatives. These tools helped enact over 14 policies as of 2021. Upstream also published the Reuse Wins Report and Roadmap to Reuse Policy which economically and scientifically proved the efficacy of their solution to plastic pollution. 

Ways to contribute:

You can support Upstream by donating or shopping online. You can also encourage your community to get involved by organizing a blitz to support local zero-waste businesses.

7

Greenpeace International: Halt Environmental Destruction

Logo for Greenpeace International
Plastic. Is. EVERYWHERE.

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Their transparency & ratings:

Greenpeace has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator, as well as a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

“Greenpeace is a global network of independent campaigning organizations that use peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.”

Greenpeace International

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What they do:

Greenpeace creates impacting change regarding Earth-threatening issues like plastic pollution through the power of protest, petition, and action. They achieve these goals by funding and mobilizing their 2.5-million-member global volunteer force from North America to Asia.  Their volunteer forces have locally lobbied for plastic bans, conducted brand audits, organized zero-waste events, and hosted beach clean-ups.

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What they’ve achieved:

Greenpeace has been a leading collaborator on several legislative victories such as the United Nations Global Plastics Treaty. They have also successfully petitioned big polluters like Coca-Cola to reduce their plastic production by 25%.

Ways to contribute:

You can support Greenpeace by donating online. You can also join their volunteer network, participate in plastic pollution campaigns, or sign their online petitions

8

Think Beyond Plastic: Accelerating the Pace of Innovation

Logo for Think Beyond Plastic
Think Beyond Plastic Innovation Competition

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Their transparency & ratings:

Think Beyond Plastic holds a Silver Seal of Transparency with GuideStar

“Accelerating the pace of innovation for a world free of plastic.”

Think Beyond Plastic

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What they do:

Think Beyond Plastic is dedicated to helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by fostering solutions in product delivery systems, bio-benign materials, and sustainable chemistry. They actively pursue this mission through their Innovation Center and Annual Accelerator Program, which serves to sponsor and educate newly established entrepreneurs in those fields.  

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What they’ve achieved:

Think Beyond Plastic’s 2021 Annual Innovation Challenge fostered the success of two entrepreneurial companies that patented agricultural plastic reformation technology. In addition, Think Beyond Plastic helped transform post-consumer plastic waste into durable and long-lasting plastic timber by facilitating connections between investors and startups like EcoAct.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate directly to Think Beyond Plastic through their website. You can also support their work by sharing and interacting with their social media accounts. 

9

Plastic Tides: Explore, Educate, Empower

Logo for Plastic Tides
RAD HUMAN PROJECT // PLASTIC TIDES

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Their transparency & ratings:

Plastic Tides earned a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar

“To inspire and catalyze action toward a plastic-free future through adventure, education, and youth empowerment.”

Plastic Tides

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What they do:

Plastic Tides fights plastic pollution by guiding youth leaders through local projects designed to bring about systemic change. Plastic Tides also hosts the Global Rising Tide Relay, which is a worldwide paddling challenge that raises funds to sponsor community projects for the Global Youth Mentor Program. 

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What they’ve achieved:

Plastic Tides’ Global Youth Mentor program has helped divert over 2 million plastic utensils from the waste flow. This program has reached over 10,000 students in 18 countries. In addition, their Global Rising Tide Relay has raised $100,000 annually to support their Global Youth Mentor Program. 

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Plastic Tides via their website. You can also get involved by hosting a fundraiser, pledging your birthday, joining their newsletter, or by volunteering as a youth mentor

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities that fight to end plastic pollution. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing a charity’s progress in reaching its targets, the chances are they’re not making a substantial positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to ending plastic pollution – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Dennis



PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist, and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

The way we think about charity is dead wrong | Dan Pallotta

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