Monday, September 21, 2009

Seven reasons to join a beach cleanup

beach cleanup
(Photo: Sieto Verver / iStockPhoto)

The Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanup is Saturday. Find a cleanup near you and join in. Even if you don't live anywhere near the beach, every stream, river, and lake in the U.S. eventually spills into an ocean, so there are cleanups planned far inland.

Here are seven good reasons to join in:

  1. Everyone else is doing it. In 2008, 400,000 volunteers worldwide participated.

  2. There's plenty of trash to go around. Last year, volunteers removed 6.8 million pounds of trash. (With 304 million U.S. residents disposing an average of roughly 4.4 pounds of trash per day, it's easy to see how it all adds up.)

  3. Cigs are king. Cigarette butts -- 3.2 million of them in 2008 -- along with plastic bags and food wrappers and containers make up the largest share of litter collected each year.

  4. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch keeps growing. Estimated to be about the size of Canada, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a debris field in the North Pacific Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles from land, that scientists on a recent expedition called shocking.

  5. Trash kills. The oceans cover two-thirds of the planet and are home to 97% of all life on Earth, and yet simple litter represents a real threat to that life. Turtles and marine mammals choke on debris, and the breakdown of some products releases toxic substances into the water that affect reproduction, neurological development, and other keys to health.

  6. You might save an animal. In 2008, cleanup volunteers found 443 animals, including sharks, stingrays, and seahorses entangled in debris -- mostly "ghost nets" from fishing boats or discarded fishing lines. They were able to save 65%.

  7. You can turn the tide. A recent scientific analysis found that the combined threats of overfishing, pollutant runoff, global warming, acidification, and habitat destruction are sending the oceans back to a primordial stew. Helping to reduce litter is one small thing we can do to help.

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