Coastal Cleanup Frees Trapped Animals, Collects Record Waste

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Sept. 19 marked the 24th anniversary of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day, the largest one-day volunteer coastal cleanup of its kind.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, during the 2008 cleanup, nearly 400,000 volunteers removed 6.8 million pounds of debris from 6,485 sites in 100 countries and 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Volunteers also found 443 animals entangled or trapped by marine debris. Of those, 268 were found alive and released.

This year, major cleanup events took place in countries such as Greece, Australia, Mexico, Singapore, China, France, Jamaica, Fiji, Kuwait and the United Kingdom.

A team of volunteers clean up coastal debris along the shores of Morro Bay, Calif. Photo: Flickr/mikebaird

A team of volunteers clean up coastal debris along the shores of Morro Bay, Calif. Photo: Flickr/mikebaird

In the U.S., the project reached from the East coast to the West coast, up to the Great Lakes and to every major body of water in between.

Some of the most commonly found items during the cleanup included cigarette buts, plastic bags, caps and lids, bottles and polystyrene.

Not only does the annual cleanup remove debris from the world’s shores, but each piece of trash is counted, thereby allowing for a large data collection effort. A report is published the following spring with compiled data on the types of trash recovered and analysis regarding marine pollution.

Many of the cleanups awarded prizes for the strangest items found. Among the winners were a grand piano, an unopened package of expired hot dogs, a fake mustache and a life-size human skull model.

California hosts one of the largest cleanups in the world. The California Coastal Commission sponsors an annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, which coincides with the international event. Preliminary results show that 66,550 volunteers picked up 819,394 pounds of and 89,899 pounds of recyclables. When all of the totals are in, the commission expects to exceed 1,000,000 pounds of trash. Other notable collections include:

  • Los Angeles County alone had more than 14,000 volunteers remove a record 150 tons of trash from regional watersheds.
  • In Oregon, 362 miles of beaches were cleared of an estimated 54,460 pounds of debris.
  • In New York City alone, more than 60 cleanup events took place.
  • Hundreds of volunteers participated in the annual September Adopt-a-Beach Cleanup organized by the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Indiana.
  • Jamaica hosted 42 cleanups in different locations.
  • In one of Singapore’s 17 locations, 329 volunteers picked up 29,496 items over a distance of 1.6 miles.

Since 1986, more than 120 million pounds of marine litter have been collected along 256,000 miles of beaches and inland waterways around the world.

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