Ocean Conservancy’s 32nd International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) on September 16th was the world’s largest single-day volunteer effort to remove trash from local beaches and waterways. Per Ocean Conservancy, hundreds of thousands of people participated worldwide. Since the first ICC over 30 years ago, more than 12 million volunteers have removed more than 220 million pounds of trash.
“From the Hawaiian Islands to the Great Lakes; from Latin America to Hong Kong and everywhere in between; the International Coastal Cleanup represents a truly global movement for trash-free seas,” said Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones,” And we are so thrilled by the tremendous growth this movement has seen over the past three decades.”
Launched in 1986 on a single beach in Texas, conservative estimates show that the 2017 ICC reached more than 100 countries through more than 6,000 events. This year, “cleanup” had a different meaning for many communities struggling in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Ocean Conservancy worked with local partners in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami to conduct specialized cleanups, and is planning similar efforts this fall in Florida and the Gulf region.
In addition to removing trash, volunteers contributed to the world’s largest database on marine debris by logging each trash item using data cards or in real-time using Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app. Scientists, researchers, industry leaders and policymakers rely on Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Trash Index to inform policy and determine solutions to the growing marine debris crisis.
Every year, millions of tons of trash—including an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste—flow into the ocean, entangling wildlife, polluting beaches, and costing coastal municipalities hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws are among the most-commonly collected items. They are also among the deadliest to wildlife like seabirds and sea turtles. Plastics—which never fully biodegrade but rather break up into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics—are of particular concern. Scientists predict that without concerted global action, there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fin fish in the ocean by 2025.
“Marine debris, specifically plastics in the ocean, is a pervasive and proliferating problem that threatens every corner of our global ocean, from sea surface to sea floor and from beach sand to Arctic sea ice,” said Nicholas Mallos, director for Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program. “The International Coastal Cleanup not only mitigates the threat of debris, but it raises global public awareness of the issue.”
“Year after year, I meet volunteers all around the world who remark on how transformative the International Coastal Cleanup has been for them in understanding the marine debris issue and the impact that they can have as an individual,” said Allison Schutes, associate director for Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program. “The ICC illustrates how individual choices matter to ocean health.”
Over the next several months, Ocean Conservancy will consolidate data sent in from partner organizations around the globe, and will release a report in early 2018 of the global impact of the 2017 ICC. During the 2016 ICC, more than 500,000 volunteers worldwide removed more than 18 million pounds of trash.
As part of its commitment to address global climate change, Bank of America has supported the Cleanup since 2002, with thousands of employees participating in Cleanup events all around the world. The Coca-Cola Foundation has supported Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup for the past 20 years. Each year Coca-Cola activates a global employee engagement campaign to encourage participation in the Cleanup. Other global sponsors include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Altria Group, Inc., the Forrest C. & Frances H. Lattner Foundation, Pacific Life Foundation, Brunswick Public Foundation, Cox Enterprises, Inc., the Dow Chemical Company, and the Martin Foundation.
Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges by creating science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org.
Photos provided by Ocean Conservancy. Photo credit: Joy Asico