Ocean Conservancy’s 33rd annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is on September 15. The world’s largest single-day volunteer effort to fight against ocean plastic pollution, this year the non-profit launches their new #SuitUpToCleanUp campaign encouraging people to suit up and head to their local beach or waterway to help pick up litter and plastic debris and take cool snaps to share on social media.
In 2017, nearly 800,000 volunteers in more than 100 countries collected approximately 9.3 million kilograms (20.5 million pounds) of trash, much of it single-use disposable plastic. In fact, it marked the first year in the cleanup’s 30-plus year history that all ten of the top-ten items collected by volunteers were made of plastic. These were:
- Cigarette butts —which contain plastic filters—
- Plastic food wrappers
- Plastic beverage bottles
- Plastic bottle caps
- Plastic grocery bags
- Other plastic bags
- Straws and stirrers
- Plastic takeout containers
- Plastic lids
- Foam takeaway containers
“Last year our incredible network of partners and volunteers removed some 20 million individual items of trash from coastlines, globally,” said Allison Schutes, Ocean Conservancy’s Associate Director of Trash Free Seas® Program. “That’s 20 million fewer items putting turtles, seabirds, fish and other beloved animals at risk, in just a day’s time. When you #suituptocleanup, you can do so much good.”
Since the event launched in 1986, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has – with the help of some 13 million volunteers – have kept more than 113 million kilograms (250 million pounds) of trash from beaches and waterways around the globe. What started as a simple beach cleanup in Texas has become a powerful force in the environmental movement.
“The ocean plastic crisis has seized the public’s attention like never before and people are looking for ways to take action. The message behind #suituptocleanup is simple: whether in cutoffs, superhero capes, or simply a bathing suit, you can be an ocean hero and have a real and immediate impact on ocean health by joining the ICC, rolling up your sleeves, and picking up trash.” – Janis Searles Jones, Ocean Conservancy CEO in a 2018 press release.
The organisation and the ICC event have evolved even further, incorporating modern technology into its conservation efforts, such as the Clean Swell App, to capture real-time data that will help to monitor on-ground efforts and trash collections that will aid scientists, researchers and policymakers in environmental policy, ocean plastic solutions and conservation efforts.
Every year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into rivers and waterways, which then flows into the oceans because they never fully biodegrade and just break down into smaller pieces known as microplastics. These microplastics endanger wildlife and marine species, pollute beach shorelines and coral reefs, and even enter the food chain and risk human health. Worldwide beach cleanups such as ICC go a long way in helping to raise awareness of the importance of a plastic-free ocean to preserve our natural environment, food systems and protect communities.
From World Environment Day’s “Beat Plastic Pollution” theme, World Oceans Day’s “Clean Our Ocean” to the popular No Plastic Straws movement, single-use disposable plastic is in the limelight – and with good reason. With one million plastic bottles sold every minute, 1,580 kilograms of plastic entering Australia’s oceans every hour and with leading environmental charity Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimating that by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight than fish in our oceans, drastic times calls for drastic measures, but one shouldn’t overlook the importance of participating in beach cleanups and the simple act of picking up trash.
“Ocean plastic has devastating consequences on marine wildlife and the communities around the globe that depend on a healthy ocean,” said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program.
“While a suite of solutions will be needed to address this problem—from rethinking and reducing our plastic use to investing in locally appropriate waste management systems—participating in a cleanup is one of the single most impactful actions an individual can take to fight ocean plastic. That’s why we are urging everyone to #suituptocleanup.”
To learn more about the International Coastal Cleanups being held in your area on September 15 2018, or find out other ways to be involved in the fight against ocean plastic pollution, visit suituptocleanup.org.