For Earth Day, Think of the Ocean

During the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup volunteers collected more than NINE MILLION POUNDS of trash (9,184,427) along 20,000 miles of coastlines. While at first this might sound like a good news, it’s also very sad that it’s even possible to collect that much trash from the ocean.

For this Earth Day and every day, we need to make sure to care more for the ocean and all the lives that call it home. Whether trash is left on the beach or the ocean coughs it up, seeing it there is at least an opportunity to pick it up and get it out of circulation before it does more damage.

According to data recently released by the Ocean Conservancy, within the nine million pounds of trash collected, the top ten items found were cigarette butts, plastic caps or lids, plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers or containers, plastic utensils, glass bottles, straws or stirrers, cans, and paper bags. Most of these things (including cigarette butts) are not biodegradable. Sea life and birds often choke on or become entangled in plastic trash. One of the most heartbreaking pictures I’ve seen was of a bird cut open after it died. The bird’s body was completely filled with little plastic pieces.

A few more things Ocean Conservancy volunteers found:

  • Enough food packaging (940,277 pieces) to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years.
  • Enough light bulbs (24,384 bulbs) to replace every light on the Eiffel Tower.
  • Enough beverage cans and glass beverage containers that, if recycled, would net $45,489.15.
  • Enough balloons (93,913) to provide one to every person expected to attend the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.

In the past 26 years of cleanups, volunteers have found:

  • Fifty-five million cigarettes butts, which if stacked vertically, would be as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings.
  • Enough glass and plastic bottles to provide every resident of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia a cold beverage on a hot summer day.
  • Enough appliances (125,156) to fill 37,434 single-axle dump trucks.
  • More than 870 thousand (870,935) diapers – enough to put one on every child born in the UK last year.
  • Enough plastic cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons to host a picnic for 2.15 million people.

While walking the beach, I’ve been surprised not only by the amount of deflated balloons to be found, but also those curly ribbons that are usually tied around presents. People must have lots of celebrations at the beach, but why not try celebrating the Earth and ocean by making sure not to leave those things behind? It’s easy to imagine the ribbons and balloons wreaking havoc with sea life and birds. I’ve also found lighters, sneakers (always just one sneaker at a time), a tire, plastic fishing nets, and of course, lots of little plastic pieces. Unfortunately, no messages in bottles. The messages are instead spread out all over the beach.

What are some strange things you’ve found while walking on the beach?

Related:
Ocean Conservancy Home Page
Oceana – Protecting the World’s Oceans
Project Kaisei: Capturing the Plastic Vortex

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