Vision, mission & values


Plastic-free rivers


River Cleanup is a global network organization on a mission to clean
rivers by empowering people, preventing pollution, and accelerating change.


Vision: plastic-free rivers

We envision a future with plastic-free rivers. Macro- and microplastics have no place in our rivers, nor in the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. With 10 million kg of plastic ending up in nature and rivers every day, we need to act today. 

Why rivers?

We focus on rivers for maximum impact. A lot of plastic waste finds its way to rivers, or is dumped into rivers directly. An estimated 1 000 rivers account for 80% of global annual plastic emission into the marine environment. Most pollution ends up in nature through small urban rivers (Meijer et al, 2021). We focus on rivers because they play a key role in early intervention in the plastic lifecycle. Ideally, we start long before plastics en up in and around rivers of course. Refusing and reducing plastic use is the best way to minimize plastic pollution.



River Cleanup is a global network organization on a mission to clean
rivers by empowering people, preventing pollution, and accelerating change.


We are a network organization because we believe in the need for and added-value of cooperation. No single person or organization can solve the problem alone, as we all have our specific strengths and expertise. We put a lot of effort in connecting to others, and connecting people to each other. We want to build an empowering network of action-oriented partners so we can work towards plastic-free rivers together.

Empower and prevent

We are aware that cleaning rivers is not a solution on its own. We need to tackle the causes of river pollution if we really want to solve this problem. While focussing on prevention to stop plastics before they reach rivers, we still clean highly polluted rivers because the legacy waste needs to be removed from nature to avoid further damage to ecosystems. Cleanups are also a great way to spread awareness and teach the participants about plastic pollution. Every person helping out and every kilometer of river cleaned are steps in the right direction. 


Accelerate change 

We accelerate change because it is the only way to reduce global plastic production and stop the flow of plastic into nature. We encourage organizations to make sustainable choices and spread awareness among their members, clients and employees. Our support can speed up the transition to less waste and inspire leaders to be ambitious in this process. 



River Cleanup aspires to be an expert in the field of plastic pollution. We build our strategy on scientific research and first-hand experience. Every step along our path is well thought-through. Expertise, respectability and impact are central to our communication. We carry out this value through an open communication style that clearly states who we are and what we stand for. 


We unite people in a shared purpose, and develop solid partnerships based on mutual respect and common values. We work together with organizations and individuals willing to contribute positively to a better and cleaner world. We stand next to our partners, side by side and celebrate our successes together. 


We focus on solutions instead of problems. We take action, and we celebrate results,
big or small. Our community thrives on positivity, so celebrating our victories boosts motivation and involvement. Together, we can change the world for the better!


We take on a massive challenge that requires intense collaboration with various partners for support, expertise and solutions. But, as greenwashing does not clean rivers, we will not associate ourselves with large-scale virgin plastic producers or companies that are involved in unethical activities. While we talk with everyone, we don't accept financial support from companies that clearly act against our vision, mission and values. This is reflected in our gift policy:


- Primary polymer producers
We do not accept financial support from or provide any kind of visibility/brand alignment to primary polymer producers as listed in the Plastic Waste Maker Index. These companies generate revenue by producing virgin plastics on a large scale. That is just not compatible with what we stand for. 


- Non-ethical companies
There are some things we just disagree with as human beings. We therefore also do not accept gifts or sponsoring from businesses that are directly involved in one or more of the following activities: production of nuclear weapons, production of cluster munitions, production of chemical and biological weapons, production of coal or coal-based energy, production of tobacco, serious violations of individuals' rights in situations of war or conflict. 


We continuously look for ways to maximize our impact on plastic-free rivers. We set clear goals as a benchmark for ourselves and as an incentive to everyone involved. Running an
ambitious organization, we keep improving our efficiency on every level to realize plastic-free rivers. We keep finding new ways to directly contribute to real results in the field. From personal mission to maximal impact, we make a difference.