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New Data Shows Types of Trash in Your Ocean and Waterways

Ocean Conservancy

With the recent news of possible Japan tsunami debris spotted off the Canadian coast, Ocean Conservancy is releasing new data that examines the larger issue of marine debris. The new numbers show a snapshot of what ocean trash is found along ocean and waterways throughout the country and world. The tallies were collected during the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup—the largest annual volunteer effort for the ocean.

Graphics, photos, video and state-specific information available here.

“Our volunteers picked up enough food packaging for a person to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years,” said Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “Ocean trash is human-generated, preventable and one of the biggest threats to our ocean and waterways.”

“Our top 10 list consistently shows that what you use, eat and drink in your everyday life ends up in the ocean,” Spruill added. “We need to stop trash at its source, and the biggest impact we can have involves the choices each of us make every day. You can make a big difference for our ocean by taking personal responsibility for your own trash, and that can start with small changes, such as properly disposing of trash and choosing reusable bags, bottles and picnic supplies.”

This year, the scientific field of marine debris had an extra challenge with the aftermath of the Japan tsunami. While researchers are still working to learn more about what resulted from this unavoidable natural disaster, one thing is known: tsunami-related debris was unpreventable, but ocean trash is—when everyone is part of the solution.

“The cleanup shows beaches suffered from marine debris before the tsunami and will continue to until our vision of Trash Free Seas is realized,” Spruill said. “We must make our ocean more resilient for when unthinkable, unpreventable disasters do occur.”

The Cleanup is part of Ocean Conservancy’s larger vision of Trash Free Seas, and is one of the many ways the organization is helping find answers and solutions on the issue of marine debris. Other Ocean Conservancy-led efforts include building a Trash Free Seas Alliance® of industry, science and conservation leaders committed to reducing waste and supporting a working group at the world’s leading ecological think tank, NCEAS, The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, to identify the scope and impact of marine debris on ocean ecosystems.

The 2011 International Coastal Cleanup, by the numbers:

Total:

  • Nearly 600,000 people (598,076) picked up more than 9 million pounds of trash (9,184,427) along more than 20,000 miles of coastlines (20,775).
  • Over the past 26 years, more than 9 million (9,361,453) volunteers have removed 153 million (153,790,918) pounds of trash from more than 300,000 (312,290) miles of coastline and waterways in 153 countries and locations.

Volunteers found:

  • Enough clothing (266,997 items) to outfit every expected audience member of the London 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.
  • Enough food packaging (940,277 pieces) to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years.
  • Enough light bulbs (24,384 bulbs) to replace every light on the Eiffel Tower.
  • Enough beverage cans and glass beverage containers that, if recycled, would net $45,489.15.
  • Enough balloons (93,913) to provide one to every person expected to attend the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.
  • Enough cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons (707,171) to host a barbeque for every student enrolled at Ohio State University, University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and University of Kansas, to celebrate their teams’ appearance in the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

In the past 26 years of cleanups, volunteers found:

  • Fifty-five million cigarettes butts, which if stacked vertically, would be as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings.
  • Enough glass and plastic bottles to provide every resident of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia a cold beverage on a hot summer day.
  • Enough appliances (125,156) to fill 37,434 single-axle dump trucks.
  • More than 870 thousand (870,935) diapers—enough to put one on every child born in the UK last year.
  • Enough cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons to host a picnic for 2.15 million people.

For more information, click here.

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