This Saturday, September 15, consider participating in International Coastal Cleanup Day. The event, which began in 1986, has a single goal — to collect and document the trash that is littering the coastline.
The movement began when Linda Maraniss moved from Washington, DC, to Texas. Maraniss, who had been working for Ocean Conservancy, was inspired by the work her colleague Kathy O’Hara was doing on Plastics in the Ocean: More than a Litter Problem, a revolutionary report that would be published in 1987.
Linda and Kathy contacted the Texas General Land Office, local businesses and other people concerned with the state of the oceans and organized the first Ocean Conservancy Cleanup, asking volunteers to not only collect trash but to record each item in order to identify ways to combat ocean trash in the future.
In the past 22 years, the Cleanup has grown with volunteers from across the US and more than 100 countries participating in local cleanup events.
“What I have learned from the Cleanup experience, is that even though the Cleanup started in Texas with a small number of 2,800 volunteers, it has grown into a massive cleanup that involves both national and international volunteers all pitching in for the same common goal of cleaning up our coastal waters and taking care of our beaches,” says Renee Tuggle, Texas State Coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup. “I am proud to be a part of this global movement and I appreciate all of the help and support I get from the Ocean Conservancy staff.”
The United Nations Environment Program estimates that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Plastic trash causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
Anyone can participate in Coastal Cleanup Day. For more than three decades, more than 12 million volunteers around the world have collected over 220 million pounds of trash. By downloading the Ocean Conservancy’s app, Clean Swell, you can help out by heading to your local beach, collecting trash, and documenting the items you find.
You can also recruit friends and family to join you in a larger cleanup. Cleanups can also take place inland since all waterways end up in the ocean. Once you’ve identified a cleanup location that is safe and accessible, you can contact your local parks agency to be sure they allow volunteer cleanups. You should also have a plan to dispose of the trash and recyclables you collect.
While you participate in a cleanup, be aware of natural and man-made safety hazards, such as rocky areas, rising tides, poisonous plants, busy roads, power lines, etc. Inform fellow volunteers that they should dress accordingly, wearing long pants or closed-toed shoes. Also, plan ahead for handling sharp items, like syringes or broken glass. These items should be placed in a wide-mouth container with a tight screw lid that is clearly labeled.
You should also have the number for your local Fish and Wildlife Service office on hand in case you come across any dead, entangled or injured wildlife. You should always leave any wildlife handling to the experts. Make sure trash is placed at designated drop-off locations and that no materials are left behind when you leave the cleanup site.
For more information on organizing a cleanup, visit oceanconservancy.org.