By: Dianna Parker
The Ocean Conservancy reported today that volunteers at last year’s International Coastal Cleanup picked up more than 12 million pounds of trash, the most ever collected in the event’s history. This one-day cleanup, which typically takes place in September, is the largest annual volunteer effort aimed at improving the health of the ocean.
The amount of trash that the nearly 650,000 volunteers (including me!) picked up would fill roughly 38 Olympic-size swimming pools and is equivalent to the weight of 823 male African elephants, according to Ocean Conservancy. The amount of fishing line collected would go up and over Mount Everest five times, and the number of bottle caps found would carpet three football fields when laid side by side.
We at NOAA are often asked exactly how much marine debris is out there, and in truth, it’s hard to say. There are estimates, but there is no way to monitor the total amount of debris put into the ocean and waterways across the globe daily. The few hard numbers we have are what we pick up, and they are staggering.
Think about it: 12 million pounds, although a huge number, is only the amount we were able to clean up during a one-day annual event. Imagine what we didn’t get to on the shorelines and what will be there tomorrow. Imagine how much we can’t reach in the ocean.
Cleanups, more than anything, demonstrate the need for prevention. We must stop debris at the source, which is us — people — and our choices. We’re working on finding solutions here at NOAA and along with partners such as Ocean Conservancy, but you can help at home. Reduce the amount you throw away — because there is no “away” — and reuse what you can. Don’t litter. Become familiar with local recycling efforts, and help educate others.
You can also organize or join cleanups, which take place often across the country. The ICC is on September 20 this year, so mark your calendars, and we’ll see you there.