Quantcast
Oceans
Marine debris on Hawaii's Kanapou Bay. NOAA / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

10 Most Common Types of Beach Litter Are All Plastic

The Ocean Conservancy released on Wednesday its International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) report, a compilation of litter collected from a one-day cleanup of beaches and waterways worldwide.

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.

Ocean Conservancy

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.

Ocean Conservancy

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke filled streets after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California on Dec. 6, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke

By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia

We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Hero Images / Getty Images

Study: Children Have Better Nutrition When They Live Near Forests

Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.

The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Navy torpedo bomber spraying DDT just above the trees in Goldendale, WA in 1962. USDA Forest Service

Maternal DDT Exposure Linked to Increased Autism Risk

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry Thursday found that mothers exposed to the banned pesticide DDT were nearly one-third more likely to have children who developed autism, Environmental Health News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Significant cupping of leaves from dicamba drift on non-Xtend soybeans planted next to Xtend beans in research plots at the Ashland Bottoms farm near Manhattan, KS. Dallas Peterson, K-State Research and Extension / CC BY 2.0

Top Seed Companies Urge EPA to Limit Dicamba

Two of the nation's largest independent seed sellers, Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place limits on the spraying of the drift-prone pesticide dicamba, Reuters reported.

This could potentially hurt Monsanto, which along with DowDupont and BASF SE, makes dicamba formulations to use on Monsanto's Xtend seeds that are genetically engineered to resist applications of the weedkiller. Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, as well as other companies, sell those seeds.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Baby son in high chair feeding father. Getty Images

Baby Food Tests Find 68 Percent Contain 'Worrisome' Levels of Heavy Metals

Testing published by Consumer Reports (CR) Thursday found "concerning levels" of toxic metals in popular U.S. baby and toddler food.

The consumer advocacy group tested 50 nationally-distributed, packaged foods designed for toddlers and babies for mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talks to journalists outside the White House West Wing before attending a Trump cabinet meeting on Aug. 16. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Zinke Announces Plan to Fight Wildfires With More Logging

The Trump administration announced a new plan Thursday to fight ongoing wildfires with more logging, and with no mention of additional funding or climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Wangan and Jagalingou cultural leader Adrian Burragubba visits Doongmabulla Springs in Australia. The Wangan and Jagalingou are fighting a proposed coal mine that would likely destroy the springs, which are sacred to the Indigenous Australian group. Wangan and Jagalingou

Indigenous Australians Take Fight Against Giant Coal Mine to the United Nations

By Noni Austin

For tens of thousands of years, the Wangan and Jagalingou people have lived in the flat arid lands of central Queensland, Australia. But now they are fighting for their very existence. Earlier this month, they took their fight to the United Nations after years of Australia's failure to protect their fundamental human rights.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Jones Gap State Park in Greenville County, South Carolina. Jason A G / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Victory for Clean Water: Court Reinstates Obama WOTUS Rule for 26 States

A federal judge invalidated the Trump administration's suspension of the Clean Water Rule, effectively reinstating the Obama-era regulation in 26 states.

The 2015 rule, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) defines which waters can be protected from pollution and destruction under the Clean Water Act. It protects large water bodies such as lakes and rivers, as well as small streams and wetlands.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!