For one day this weekend, as they have for the last 25 years, hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world will gather on beaches, rivers, lakes, and streams to collect and document shoreline trash during the annual International Coastal Cleanup event. By the numbers, here’s some of what they’ve picked up over the years:
Over one million beverage bottles each year
7,825,319 plastic bags with over 1 million in 2009 alone
Nearly 53 MILLION cigarette butts
Enough cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons for a picnic for 100,000 people just in 2009
144 million pounds of trash equivalent in weight to 41,210 sedans
The data generated by the annual coastal cleanup event has been key in developing both new policies to better protect the environment and innovative products and technologies to reduce the amount of waste that can end up in our waterways. Check out the Ocean Conservancy’s 2011 Marine Debris Report (see the “Dive Deeper” section) for some heartening statistics and stories. They crunch the numbers from all the data cards volunteers generate from the cleanup each year. Innovations reported include the development of new six-pack rings designed to break apart and photo-degrade in 3-4 weeks during summer, and 3-4 months during winter. This can help reduce wildlife deaths from entanglement. Also, they report over 9 million miles of fishing line have been recycled since 1990.
Locally, Donna Cuoco, long-time secretary at Crown Memorial State Beach, has made a difference by getting grant money to install cigarette butt disposal bins along the beach. This has helped keep hundreds of thousands of butts from becoming litter that’s a hazard to migratory birds and other wildlife.
So be a hero and join a cleanup event tomorrow. You can also take the Trash Free Seas pledge and become a Recycling Ninja with a cool downloadable wallet recycling guide or find out about where you can recycle many different items close to home with this database from Stopwaste.org. Together we can better protect and enjoy the Bay and oceans we love.