10 Most Common Types of Beach Litter Are All Plastic
For the first time since the report's inception more than 30 years ago, the 10 most common items picked up by volunteers around the world were made of plastic. Foam takeaway containers booted glass beverage bottles from this year's list.
"Over the years, we have seen plastics creeping into the top-10 list, displacing items like rope, beverage cans and paper bags," said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, in a statement provided to EcoWatch. "But this is the first year that all ten of the top-10 items collected are made of plastic. Given that plastic production is rising, this could be the start of a long and troubling trend."
During last year's International Coastal Cleanup Day, which is observed annually on the third Saturday in September, nearly 800,000 volunteers in more than 100 countries collected nearly 20.5 million pounds of trash.
Participants found that cigarette butts—a repeat top offender on the ICC list—were the most littered item, with approximately 2.4 million collected. Food wrappers (1.7 million pieces), drink bottles (1.6 million), bottle caps (1.1 million) and grocery bags (757,523) round out the top five.
Each piece of debris is logged into Ocean Conservancy's Ocean Trash Index, the world's largest database on marine debris, a valuable snapshot of the world's growing plastic problem.
"What sets the ICC apart is our emphasis on data collection," said George Leonard, Ocean Conservancy's chief scientist in a statement, "and data are critically needed if we are to find meaningful solutions to the ocean plastic crisis."
Since about 1950, humans have created more than 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastics. Unfortunately, a lot of that plastic ends up in the world's oceans. An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic leaches into our seas each year. This debris has negatively impacted more than 800 species of marine animals, a UN report found.
Plastic also never fully biodegrades; it just breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. These
microplastics, which get gobbled up by plankton and fish and work its way up the food chain, have been found in all corners of Earth. A recent Greenpeace expedition to Antarctica turned up microplastics in more than half of ocean water samples taken in the world's southernmost waters.
While the growing international effort to ban single-use plastics is crucial in curbing use of the material, beach cleanups are important because they directly stop the flow of plastics from entering our precious waters.
As Allison Schutes, associate director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, puts it, "Every item of debris removed is one less item putting ocean wildlife at risk."
This year's International Coastal Cleanup will be held on Sep. 15. Click here to find a cleanup near you.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.