Volunteers in last year’s Great American Cleanup program collected more than 86 million pounds of litter, according to the Keep America Beautiful, Inc. (KAB) organization. The Surfrider Foundation notes that its chapters hold hundreds of beach cleanups. And Grist reported in March that the work of more than 390,000 volunteers in last year’s International Coastal Cleanup was a drop in the ocean.
While the numbers of volunteer cleanups and amounts of trash collected is impressive, the volume of trash is immense. So, compared to the actual amount of trash in the U.S. alone, are these cleanups really solving any problems?
The answer to the question is both yes and no, according to two organizations that hold cleanups.
KAB, a national organization, and San Francisco Baykeeper, agree that cleanups can change how people approach the environment. On the other hand, the organizations say many other efforts need to be carried out in order to effectively reduce trash pollution. In other words, cleanups are a key piece in a complex puzzle.