Trash Free Seas: 2011 International Coastal Cleanup
What’s it all about?
All year long, organizations and individuals across the globe take part in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup to remove trash and debris from the world’s beaches and waterways, identify the sources of that debris, and change the behaviors that allow it to reach the ocean in the first place.
During the amazing signature event each September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers from countries all over the world spend a day picking up everything from cigarette butts and food wrappers to lost fishing nets and major appliances. Because trash travels to the ocean by way of storm drains and waterways, they don’t just work along ocean beaches; these dedicated folks slog through mud and sand along lakes, streams, and rivers, too, often working far inland.
Many walk, while others set out on boats. Thousands more don scuba gear to seek trash below the water’s surface. People of all ages, from any walk of life, can participate. Friends, families, neighbors, club members, grade school classes—all kinds of people turn out on one day to work together in spirit across many time zones.
Local action, global change
It all began with one woman walking along the beach of South Padre Island, Texas. Appalled at the amount of trash she saw, Linda Maraniss immediately felt compelled to do something about it. As a former employee of Ocean Conservancy (then known as the Center for Environmental Education), she knew something about solutions. Teaming up with like-minded people, she organized a beach cleanup. In a mere two hours, 2,800 Texans picked up 124 tons of trash along 122 miles of coastline. Since 1986, that effort has rippled out across the globe, and over a quarter century has grown into a much-loved and much valued experience that nearly half-a-million people look forward to each fall—with more joining each year.
Data makes for good decisions
Working shoulder-to-shoulder, the volunteers in the Cleanup’s global network not only pick up trash, they record every item they find on standardized data cards. Ocean Conservancy compiles and analyzes the data each year, and publishes the world’s only item-by-item, location-by-location snapshot of marine debris in an annual report. By understanding what is out there, we can work together on solutions. For instance, each year volunteers collect more than a million beverage bottles from beaches, shorelines, and underwater in just one day. Clearly, that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Cleanups alone can’t solve the marine debris problem; we need to stop it at the source. Armed with knowledge about the most prevalent components of marine debris, elected officials can make informed policy decisions, and community leaders can more effectively tailor and expand recycling and other waste reduction programs. Corporations can see the need for improved technology and reduced packaging, and individuals are inspired to properly dispose of trash to keep it out of the ocean.
When we trash the ocean, we trash our own well-being
Whether we live along the shore or hundreds of miles inland, we are all intimately connected to the ocean. It drives and moderates our climate. It is the ultimate source of much of the water we drink and much of the air we breathe. It directly feeds millions of people. It also absorbs a great deal of the air and water pollution generated by a world population approaching seven billion people. But our ocean is sick, and our actions have made it so.
Marine debris kills
Every year, countless marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and other animals are sickened, injured, or killed because of dangerous items we allow into the sea. They are poisoned, choked, or entangled in the trash we leave behind, from leaky paint cans to empty yogurt cups to cast-off fishing line. Trash also poses health threats to humans, contaminates marine environments, and clogs boat propellers.
Join forces for a clean, healthy ocean
Trash doesn’t fall from the sky, it falls from human hands. And human hands have the power to stop it. You and your friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues can truly make a difference through this remarkable experience of international camaraderie on behalf of the ocean.
In 2009, 60 percent of the debris collected and cataloged consisted of single-use, disposable items. Volunteers picked up 1.1 million plastic bags. And enough cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons for a picnic for 100,000 people.
Thanks to Echelon member mermaidmelo for the submission.
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