Tackling the threat of ocean plastic pollution, the Ocean Conservancy hosts its annual International Coastal Cleanup to collect trash around the world in an effort to reduce the impact plastic pollution has on the environment.
The 2018 event saw 23.3 million pounds of trash collected by 1,080,358 volunteers from more than 120 countries. The most collected item? Cigarette butts. About 5.7 million cigarette butts were collected by ICC volunteers.
Plastic pollution is a huge issue in coastal areas and in our oceans as well. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic pollutes our oceans.
This plastic clogs our oceans, entraps marine life, and spreads itself into every corner of the world.
Single-use plastics, such as food wrappers, straws, and plastic cutlery, were also collected in abundance by ICC volunteers last year.
Single-use plastics are plastics that people only use one time before disposing of them. They can include cups, straws, cutlery and more. Single-use plastics are one category of waste that often do not make it to a recycling plant for land fill. Most often they are left in our environments and end up in our oceans. Last year, the ICC cleanup saw plastic cutlery was in the top ten most collected items for the first time ever.
Some of the most common single use plastics found in the environment are:
According to the World Economic Forum, we dump the equivalent of one dump truck full of garbage into the ocean every minute. Plastics packaging represent a large part of the one time plastic use dilemma.
One thing that is difficult to collect during beach cleanups are micro-plastics. Plastics never truly biodegrade; they only break down into smaller and smaller pieces, also known as micro-plastics. What are micro-plastics?
Micro-plastics are a pervasive pollution that can travel in rain, wind, and water. Micro-plastics have even been found in snow samples from ice slopes in the Fram Strait, a sea channel connecting the Artic Ocean and the Nordic Seas.
Micro-plastics, or micro-debris, are small pieces of plastic that start off as large pieces of plastic debris that become reduced in size through degradation and collisions, breaking it down into smaller pieces.
Commonly referred to as nurdles, these small pieces of plastic are recycled to make new plastic items, but are released into the environment through rivers and streams. How can we capture nurdles before they reach the open ocean? Storm drain filters can catch micro-plastics coming from factories and manufacturing centers and landfills. Seabins can also help to filter out pieces as small as 2mm.
There are many ways to help reduce the estimated 150 million tons of plastic present in our oceans today. If we fail to make any changes now, then by the year 2050, this number is estimated to explode to 250 million metric tons.
The International Coastal Cleanup initiative is one way to make a difference in our collective plastic footprint. Citizen participation in local issues like plastic pollution will greatly improve the quality of life that those citizens lead. Find a beach cleanup event and participate.
Finding a cleanup location is easy with Ocean Conservancy's website. An interactive cleanup location map shows various cleanup locations in your area. The website also shows cleanup reports and instructions on what sorts of things can be expected on cleanups. While the ICC happens once a year, you can participate in local beach cleanups and even start your own cleanup.
Beach cleanups and combing shorelines for pieces of plastic are a great start. But what about those microplastic pieces that are too small to pick up or the debris and trash that comes through storm drains and leaks directly into our waterways?
We need ways to catch plastic and trash debris before it reaches the open ocean. A floating trash skimmer is a viable way to reduce the amount of plastics in our environment that we can't pick up by hand. The Seabin trash skimmer pumps nonstop filtering out plastics, large and small, in harbors and marinas. Floating Seabins are useful in marinas and places with floating docks and Fixed Seabins are better suited for mooring at fixed docks.
Just like coastal cleanups, Seabins need dedicated community support. Without caring citizens willing to do cleanups, shorelines would be piled high with miles of plastics. Seabins require regular checking and maintenance to perform at top level.
Up to 44 pounds of debris and trash can be caught inside the Seabin's catch bag, which will need to be emptied as necessary. Seabins provide viable solutions for water pollution and promote themselves while they do their work. Recycling and recording the amount and type of debris caught is a great educational opportunity for schools or environmental clubs.
Start by cleaning up your local beach, riverbank, and lagoon. Pick up the plastics you see around town, and reduce your plastic footprint by getting involved in a community cleanup project, like International Coastal Cleanup Day. Sponsor a Seabin in your community to combat plastic pollution. For more information, contact us or call 863-261-8388.