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Mariana Vasconcelos

CleanUp Aveiro

Your city, our planet

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A local action, a global impact

Walking down the street and noticing cigarette butts scattered on the sidewalk or laying out a towel at the beach only to find someone, before us, left a plastic bottle behind. It may seem insignificant - after all, “it’s just a cigarette butt!” - but, when we tally up all these small actions, we arrive at an undeniable and alarming conclusion: the planet is becoming littered with trash.

“CleanUp Aveiro” brings together community efforts - from individual citizens, associations, businesses and other entities - around a common goal: to make our streets and our planet a cleaner place. The project represents a civic movement actively involving the community in waste collection activities on the streets, forests, rivers and beaches of the region, raising awareness for a shift in thoughts and attitudes.


Kilograms of garbage


Collected cigarette butts



How was the project born?

This project originated from the “Cigarette Butt Patrol”, an initiative organised by Agora Aveiro in 2020 to mark “World No Tobacco Day”. In the midst of a pandemic, in just over an hour, a small group of association volunteers collected around 5300 cigarette butts from the streets of Aveiro. Although symbolic, this activity served as a wake-up call to the problem of improper cigarette butt disposal.

In 2021, the current “CleanUp Aveiro” was established, which in addition to cigarette butt collections, also organises trash collection activities in the Ria de Aveiro and the beaches of the region - Costa Nova, Costinha, Vagueira and Barra.

Why do we care?

Every year, 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans[1]. Added to this figure are the 4.3 billion cigarette butts improperly discarded worldwide[2]. Despite laws imposing heavy fines for littering cigarette butts or improper waste disposal, a change in attitudes has yet to occur. Our streets, beaches and forests continue to be destinations for tons of trash. It’s urgent to change our behaviour!

“CleanUp Aveiro” seeks to fight community disinterest and indifference towards improper waste disposal, raising awareness among the population through cleaning actions on the streets, forests, rivers and beaches of the region, with the active participation of all. We carry out these actions in conjunction with schools, universities, businesses, associations and other entities, actively involving all participants in protecting our planet.

The simple act of cleaning becomes a force that unites people who would otherwise never dream of working towards the same goal. Why? Because, given the opportunity, we can all help. From our homes to our streets, from our neighbourhoods to our cities, we all are part of a community and we all can contribute to a better planet.

Our activities

Beach Litter Pickup

Plastics produced from fossil fuels have been around for over a century. Their production accelerated after World War II, transforming the world to the point where a life without plastics would be impractical today.

While the usefulness and value of plastic are undeniable, the properties that make them so useful - such as durability and resistance to degradation - also make them nearly impossible to be destroyed by nature. Many of these products, such as plastic bags, food packaging and water bottles, have a lifespan of minutes or hours but can persist in the environment for hundreds of years[3]. The ultimate fate of this waste is invariably the sea. It’s estimated that plastic accounts for 80% of marine litter[4]. A problem that may seem distant but, literally, washes ashore.

How many of us haven’t found a cigarette butt in the middle of the sand or a lost plastic bottle? From plastic and glass bottles to nets, cigarette butts, hooks, fishing gear and tires, unfortunately, you can find a bit of everything on our beaches.

Beach litter collection activities are preceded by a preliminary visit and contact with the entities responsible for beach maintenance - parishes or municipalities. The collected waste is properly separated and, according to the type of waste and its state of degradation, sent for recycling, energy recovery or, as a last resort, landfill.

Ria Cleanup

Ria de Aveiro is a lagoon estuary with over 45 km in length located in the Aveiro region, between Ovar and Mira[5]. It receives waters from the Vouga, Antuã, Boco and Fontão rivers, with its only connection to the sea being a channel that cuts through the coastal barrier between Barra and São Jacinto, in Aveiro. Rich in fish and water birds, it’s an area of enormous ecological interest, being a prime location for water sports and tourism. Although it has been losing its importance in the Aveiro economy year by year, salt production is still one of the most characteristic traditional activities of Aveiro.

Unfortunately, despite its endless beauty, enormous biodiversity and economic value, the Ria de Aveiro is often the destination for huge amounts of trash. Packaging, hooks, fishing lines, nets, plastic bags, bottles, styrofoam and tires are unconsciously dumped in its waters or brought by its tributaries and deposited on its shores.

Like beach cleanups, the waste collected in Ria cleanups is separated and, according to the type and state of degradation, sent for recycling, energy recovery or, as a last resort, landfill.

Cigarette Butt Collection

Every year, over 6.5 trillion (6,500,000,000,000) cigarettes are produced worldwide, with two-thirds of them improperly discarded in the environment. It’s estimated that around 7000 cigarette butts are thrown on the ground every minute in Portugal alone. Cigarette filters - “butts” - end up in watercourses and the sea, being one of the most commonly found items in beach litter collections[6].

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable - they are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic fibre, they take between 18 months to 10 years to decompose, releasing thousands of microplastic particles in the process[7]. Contaminating both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, cigarette butts are easily mistaken for food by animals and, once in the food chain, can end up on our plates[8]. Furthermore, cigarette butts not only contain plastic but also a cocktail of toxic substances: formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, nicotine, copper and a variety of pesticides[9]. One cigarette butt is enough to contaminate 1000 litres of water[10], the average amount a Portuguese person uses during a week[11]. Cigarette butts thus pose a threat to the environment, ecosystems and human health.

After a route is defined, and with the guidance of our monitors, cigarette butts are collected, counted, stored and sent to a partner where they are properly processed.

Our partners

“CleanUp Aveiro” is made possible thanks to its partners - associations, companies and other entities that come together to make our streets, and our planet, a cleaner place. Would you like to associate your company with “CleanUp Aveiro” as a partner and help us make our planet a cleaner place?



Silver Partners: