International Coastal Cleanup Bagged 4,100 Tons of Trash

WASHINGTON, DC, July 24, 2006 (ENS) - The International Coastal Cleanup last year attracted 450,000 volunteers who in a single day removed 8.2 million pounds of debris from 18,000 miles of coasts in 74 different nations, according to a final report on the 2005 Cleanup released by the Ocean Conservancy, organizer of the annual event.

The report on last year's worldwide debris haul issued Thursday marks the start of the countdown to this year's International Coastal Cleanup, scheduled for September 16, 2006.

"Marine debris kills wildlife and is a threat to the local environment, not to mention an eyesore," said Vickie Matter, director of the International Coastal Cleanup. "The information we've gathered over the past 20 years shows that it's ultimately a manmade problem, which means it is highly solvable."

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Volunteer finds a dolphin carcass entangled in a net while diving off the coast of Egypt. (Photo courtesy Ocean Conservancy)
The International Coastal Cleanup is the largest single-day volunteer event for the marine environment. During the event, volunteers record statistics of each local cleanup. The Ocean Conservancy compiles all the local figures into a report on cumulative marine debris data.

The collected data, which includes figures from 1986 when the cleanup started to the most recent effort in 2005, provides the clearest picture of marine debris currently available.

From the first cleanup to date, 6.2 million volunteers have removed a grand total of 109 million pounds of debris from the world's beaches and waterways, covering 179 million miles in 127 different nations.

The statistics kept by volunteers as they pick up debris and compiled by the Ocean Conservancy shows the causes and sources of marine debris.

Worldwide in 2005, volunteers found 101 animals entangled in debris, about half of them seabirds. Nine marine mammals were found entangled in the United States alone. Discarded fishing line was responsible for nearly half of all entanglements, while rope and fishing nets caused the rest.

Land-based activities accounted for 58 percent of the debris collected worldwide, and an additional 29 percent is from activities related to tobacco smoking. The remaining items are a mix from oceanic activities, medical or hygienic materials, or the result of dumping.

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Young volunteer helps Dad clean Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. (Photo courtesy Ocean Conservancy)
"During the Cleanup, the effort is local, but the effect is global," said Matter. "Making sure people take responsibility for their actions and keep their trash out of the marine environment is the crucial component, and not just during cleanups but year-round, too. Every piece of debris has human fingerprints on it."

In the United States, 174,075 volunteers came out to clean up shorelines and waterways. Volunteers covered 13,970 miles, picking up 3,215,768 debris items that weighed 3,888,679 pounds.

Volunteers recorded every piece of debris they picked up. Their statistics show that the top three types of debris cigarettes, food wrappers, and caps and lids account for over half of all debris collected in the United States.

Smoking-related items - cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging - accounted for 35 percent of the debris found in the United States.

Cigarettes, the number one type of debris collected in the United States, accounted for more than one-quarter of all the debris.

Overall, 56 percent of the debris found in the United States originated from land-based activities such as picnics, festivals, sports, and days at the beach. Litter washed from streets, parking lots, and storm drains also contributed to this category of debris.

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Volunteer retrieves an oven that was dumped on a Chicago beach. (Photo courtesy Ocean Conservancy)
Volunteers retrieved all kinds of bulky trash that was carelessly dumped. In the United States alone, 1,500 appliances such as refrigerators and washers were cleaned up, and 8,182 cars and car parts, 5,695 tires, and more than 49,000 pieces of building materials were removed from the shores.

Among ICC participants in the United States were 1,823 divers, who removed 28,120 pounds of debris from below the water's surface. In total 22,017 debris items were retrieved from 83 miles of underwater area.

Surveys from the last decade indicate that most people do not consider their own contributions to marine debris to be significant enough to warrant a change in personal behavior. However, data collected during the 2005 cleanup shows that pinpointing the types of debris and the activities that cause them aids in the creation of educational programs to help people develop a new mind set toward littering, the Conservancy says in its report.

"The real solution is prevention, and that takes responsible behavior," said Matter. "Raising this awareness is key."

Sponsors of the International Coastal Cleanup include some of the companies whose products are found most often in the debris piles.

For state-by-state reports, visit: www.OceanConservancy.org/ICC