Ocean Conservancy Report: Trash in Our Ocean has Become One of the Worst Pollution Problems We Face Threatening Ecosystems, Wildlife, and Coastal Economies

Today, Ocean Conservancy releases Trash Travels: From Our Hands to the Sea, Around the Globe, and Through Time the only global snapshot of the marine debris problem facing wildlife, economies and marine ecosystems. Nearly 500,000 volunteers around the world combed their local beaches and waterways collecting trash and recording the data during the 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup the largest volunteer effort of its kind.

 

 

Ocean Conservancy Report: Trash in Our Ocean has Become One of the Worst Pollution Problems We Face Threatening Ecosystems, Wildlife, and Coastal Economies

Data collected during the 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup provide the only global snapshot of the marine debris problem; 500,000 volunteers around the world removed 7.4 million pounds of trash from our ocean, lakes and rivers

April 13, 2010

 

 

Washington, DC Today, Ocean Conservancy releases Trash Travels: From Our Hands to the Sea, Around the Globe, and Through Time the only global snapshot of the marine debris problem facing wildlife, economies and marine ecosystems. Nearly 500,000 volunteers around the world combed their local beaches and waterways collecting trash and recording the data during the 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup the largest volunteer effort of its kind. Volunteers removed and recorded 7.4 million pounds of trash in 108 countries and locations, 45 US states and the District of Columbia. The report features Ocean Conservancy’s annual Marine Debris Index the world’s only country-by-country, state-by-state analysis of trash in our ocean and waterways. Trash Travels also shines a spotlight on the growing threat of marine debris one of our greatest global pollution problems.

“Momentum is building. There is a growing understanding of the significant impact trash has on wildlife, the economy and the productivity and resiliency of our ocean,” said Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “The data generated by hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers around the world provide us with a global snapshot of the trash in our ocean, but cleanups alone cannot solve the problem it’s time to stop marine debris at the source. From design to disposal, we all have a role to play: corporations can reduce packaging, governments can enact strong marine debris policies, and each of us can choose re-usable items, recycle when possible and put trash in its place.”

Marine debris is one of the most widespread pollution problems we face, with plastics making up approximately three-quarters of all trash floating in the ocean. Birds, fish and other wildlife can easily mistake smaller debris for food, choking the animals, or blocking the digestive system. For instance, sea turtles can easily mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish with deadly consequences. Whales and dolphins can face a similar fate by ingesting larger items. Ropes, old fishing gear, and other larger debris items can pose an entanglement danger to wildlife, damage sensitive ocean habitats like coral reefs, and interfere with maritime safety and navigation.

“Eliminating the threat of marine debris will help improve the ocean’s resilience. Our ocean is our life-support system, and when we trash our ocean we are trashing our own health and well-being,” concluded Spruill.

The 2009 International Coastal Cleanup, by the numbers:

  • Volunteers found 336 marine animals, including 138 birds, entangled in marine debris 120 of the animals were still alive and released. Fishing line and nets were some of the most dangerous items, trapping over 200 animals.
  • Volunteers found 512,517 cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons enough to provide a full set of dinnerware to over 100,000 people.
  • Volunteers around the world covered 14,827 miles more than six times the length of the Mississippi river.
  • Volunteers found 58,881 bottles of oil/lube during the cleanup. This is the amount that would be used to change the oil in nearly 12,000 mid-sized cars.

Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup engages volunteer organizations and individuals to remove trash and debris from the world’s beaches and waterways; to identify the sources of debris; and to change policies and behaviors that cause marine debris in the first place. Visit www.oceanconservancy.org to download the report and to find out what you can do to make a difference - including signing up for the 25th International Coastal Cleanup to be held around the world on September 25th, 2010.

Partners:
Coca-Cola has been supporting the International Coastal Cleanup since 1995 and has been the lead sponsor since 2005, raising awareness of the issue of marine debris and the personal responsibility we all share in solving the problem. In 2008, Coca-Cola activated more than 50,000 Coca-Cola system associates in over 35 countries around the world to help clear beaches and waterways of debris. As part of its $20 billion, 10-year initiative to address climate change, Bank of America has supported the International Coastal Cleanup for the past several years, with thousands of associates participating in Cleanup events across the United States and around the world. Other national sponsors include Altria Group, Inc.; Booz Allen Hamilton; The Dow Chemical Company; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Ocean Conservancy is the world’s foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act for the oceans. Ocean Conservancy is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific, including Alaska, with support from more than half a million members and volunteers.

Ocean Conservancy

 
 

 

Trash Travels: From Our Hands to the Sea

Each year, Ocean Conservancy provides a compelling global snapshot of marine debris collected and recorded at more than 6,000 sites all over the world on a single day during the International Coastal Cleanup. The world’s largest volunteer effort for the ocean and waterways began nearly twenty-five years ago with the efforts of one woman, and today works towards global solutions through the cumulative efforts of half-a-million volunteers around the world.

This year’s annual report, Trash Travels: From Our Hands to the Sea, Around the Globe, and Through Time, highlights the 2009 data and explains how trash improperly discarded can travel long distances in the water, becoming one of our greatest global pollution problems.

During the 2009 International Coastal Cleanup, 498,818 volunteers picked up 7.4 million pounds of marine debris, in 108 countries and locations around the world and 45 US states and the District of Columbia. Millions of debris items, ranging from cigarette butts to 55-gallon drums and household appliances, contribute to the deterioration of ocean ecosystems and harm humans, wildlife, and coastal economies.

No matter where we live, the ocean is our life support system, providing much of the food, water, and oxygen we need to survive. When we compromise the ocean’s health, we compromise our own. Marine debris also directly impacts human health. Sharp items like broken glass or metal cans cut beachgoers, while disposable diapers and old chemical drums introduce bacteria, toxic compounds, and other contaminants into the water. Marine wildlife suffers from dangerous encounters with marine debris as well, facing sickness and death from entanglement or ingestion of man-made objects. And the pervasive problem of marine debris even impacts economic health by incurring removal costs and reducing recreational revenue, for example.

The comprehensive, long-term body of data compiled by Ocean Conservancy and an army of volunteers each year—the Marine Debris Index—is the only country-by-country, state-by-state, item-by-item accounting of trash on beaches and along coastal and inland waterways. These data have been collected systematically since 1989. Of the items tracked during the Cleanup, the top three items (by number) found worldwide in 2009 were cigarettes/cigarette filters, plastic bags, and food wrappers/containers.

The Marine Debris Index has informed major marine debris legislation like the US Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act, and has also helped inspire changes in the behaviors that cause marine debris. The data have been cited in a number of major reports and plans concerning this global pollution problem, from California State’s marine debris action plan to the United Nations Environmental Programme’s 2009 worldwide survey Marine Litter: A Global Challenge.

Because trash travels, we are all part of the problem—and the solution—whether we live hundreds of miles inland or along the ocean’s shores. This year’s Cleanup report examines the phenomenon of trash on the move to and throughout the ocean, and the resulting impacts worldwide. Cleanup data tell us that an estimated 60-80 percent of marine litter starts out on land. Lakes, rivers, streams, and storm drains, helped by the wind and rain, transport litter hundreds of miles to the ocean. And ocean currents and winds carry that marine debris all around the globe. Trash travels through time as well; estimates vary, but some items may last hundreds or even thousands of years in the water.

The data from the International Coastal Cleanup help provide a roadmap for eliminating marine debris by demonstrating the scope and scale of the problem and documenting trends. Armed with that information, we can work together to reduce marine debris at the source, change the behaviors that cause it, and support better policies to prevent it from causing further harm to our vital ocean ecosystems

Ocean Conservancy

 

Download your copy of the 2010 Report (10.5mb pdf)



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