International Coastal Cleanup Gears up for ‘Million-Strong’ Turnout Saturday
This coming Saturday, Sept. 21 is the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the annual Ocean Conservancy event that mobilizes volunteers in more than 100 countries to collect litter from beaches and waterways and record what they find.
The organization is looking to build on last year's event, which was noteworthy for two reasons: It was the first time more than one million people participated, and it was the first time that plastic cutlery made the group's top 10 list of most collected items.
"We are so moved by the incredible turnout in 2018, and we are gearing up for another million-strong volunteers showing up this year," Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones said in a press release. "The ICC numbers speak for themselves: together, we can make a difference – for our community, for our coasts, and for our ocean."
THE NEWS IS OUT:— Ocean Conservancy (@OurOcean) September 4, 2019
In 2018, we had over 1 MILLION volunteers remove approximately 23 MILLION POUNDS of trash from coastlines and waterways around the world in just ONE DAY.
Check it out! 🌊https://t.co/ko1rkYEBT3
The ICC is unique in that it is not simply a litter pickup. It's also a massive data collection event that generates the world's largest database of marine trash. The yearly findings can help activists, scientists and policy makers discern what items to target in order to fight plastic pollution.
The prevalence of plastic knives, forks and spoons last year led the group to launch a Quit the Cutlery pledge, urging signers to take steps such as carrying reusable sporks and refusing plastic utensils when ordering takeout.
"Plastic forks, knives and spoons are ranked among the most harmful types of marine debris to ocean animals, and the 2018 ICC data show that they may be a lot more prevalent than we had previously suspected," Nicholas Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas® program, said in the press release.
2018's top 10 list had other, broader lessons. Nine of the top 10 items were related to food and drink, as National Geographic pointed out.
In addition, many of the items were things like straws, bottle caps and lids that are not easily recyclable.
"If you run down the rest of the top ten list, what strikes me is that the vast majority are not recyclable. To the extent we talk about recycling as a solution to ocean plastic problems, it would have to get to 50 or 90 percent, which is a huge lift and gets complicated very quickly," Ocean Conservancy chief scientist George Leonard told National Geographic.
Around eight million metric tons of plastic enter the world's oceans every year, impacting more than 800 animal species. The Ocean Conservancy has been working on the problem of marine trash since 1986. Since that first ICC, more than 15 million volunteers have collected almost 315 million pounds of trash.
The organization won't know yet if 2019's turnout is on track to surpass last year's 1,080,358 volunteers, since volunteers typically register with local partners, ICC Director Allison Schutes explained in an email to EcoWatch. Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas, also put a damper on cleanups organized on the islands.
ICC works with around eight different groups in the Bahamas, which coordinate approximately 1,000 to 3,000 volunteers a year, ICC Outreach Manager Sarah Kollar told EcoWatch in an email. Most of those groups are now focused on offering relief to fellow Bahamians impacted by the storm, though they may reschedule cleanups for later in the year. The Ocean Conservancy is also in conversation with these groups to see what help it can provide.
"In past experiences with natural disasters impacting our ICC family, Ocean Conservancy has stepped in to provide funds to cover materials that other relief efforts may be short on, like generators, cleanup materials, and so on," Kollar said.
But, despite the tragedy in the Bahamas, the global outlook for the event is still positive.
"We are working with partners and volunteers around the world to continue the momentum, and have even seen a number of celebrities share the call to participate. We are optimistic this will be one of our biggest ICC's yet!" Schutes wrote.
We are all connected to the oceans which cover 70% of earths surface & produce 1/2 the air we breathe, oceans govern the world's weather & are to home a kaleidoscope of life ~ give back to the worlds oceans.~ volunteer on September 21st @ https://t.co/JjSiiS0s9I @OurOcean #ICC pic.twitter.com/r9chw1W9v5— Daryl Hannah (@dhlovelife) September 16, 2019
Anyone who wants to join a cleanup Saturday can sign up on the Ocean Conservancy website.
For those who want to litter pick but don't live near a river, lake or coast, Saturday is also World Cleanup Day, which started in Estonia in 2008 and amassed 18 million participates from 157 countries last year. It is organized by the membership-based group Let's Do It World. This year, the group is hoping for 30 million participants.
"Our focus during World Cleanup Day is to activate citizens to take action and become more aware of their surroundings, the trash around them and to change behaviours to become more environmentally aware," Heidi Solba, President and Head of Network of Let's Do It World, said in an email to EcoWatch.
Anyone interested can find out how to participate here.
633 Divers Break Record for World’s Largest Underwater Cleanup https://t.co/rwdw7vuFG0— Robb Edwards Ⓥ (@RobRobbEdwards) June 17, 2019
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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