Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ocean Conservancy's 2008 Coastal Cleanup Day: here's the dirt

For several years the Ocean Conservancy has been holding the International Coastal Cleanup Day in late September. On that day, people, from scuba divers to beachcombers, clean up beaches, shorelines, and local dive sites, collecting trash that is measured and listed in several categories - not only is it important to pick the trash up, but it is equally important to understand what kind of trash is making its way into our coastal waters.

For 2008, 400,000 participated worldwide and collected 6.8 million pounds of trash - that's 3,400 tons in one day! In terms of sheer numbers, the biggest culprits were cigarettes, plastic bags, and food wrappers/containers. Some items were perhaps not so surprising, like 1.3 million cigarette butts in the United States; others were a bit of a surprise, like over 11,000 diapers in the Philippines - even small countries can generate lots of trash from today's "modern convenience" items.

The Ocean Conservancy has issued several summary reports. There's an executive summary or the full report available in PDF (click here). As far as solutions go, the report offers several but nothing that is new or unique - it doesn't take a unique solution to fix what is an obvious problem: public and commercial participation, more recycling, better coastal management. Here are 10 suggestions from the Ocean Conservancy for any individual to consider:
Number 1 Volunteer for Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.
Number 2 Put trash in a secure, lidded receptacle - most marine debris starts out on land.
Number 3 Properly recycle everything you can in your area.
Number 4 When boating, bring your trash back to shore, and ask your marina to handle waste properly.
Number 5 Less is more: Don't buy stuff you don't need, and choose items that use less packaging.
Number 6 Inform and inspire your friends and co-workers to help stop marine debris at the source.
Number 7 Bring your own containers for picnics instead of using disposables. Take your own reusable bags whenever you go shopping.
Number 8

Write to companies or visit local businesses and encourage them to reuse, recycle, and generate less packaging.

Number 9 Put cigarette butts in ashtrays, not on streets, sidewalks, or beaches.
Number 10 Write to your elected officials and ask them to support policies that protect our ocean.
Congratulations to the Ocean Conservancy for another successful proactive environmental event. Let's look forward to the day when the International Coastal Cleanup Day is cancelled due to lack of trash!

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