Ted Reckas
For 26 years the International Coastal Cleanup has been making an impact.

By now the massive amounts of trash going into the ocean each year is well known. The voyage of The Plastiki , Project Kaisei and organizations like 5 Gyres have effectively drawn attention to it. Companies like Method are even making their product packaging from plastic gleaned from the ocean.


An estimated 6.4 million tons of trash enters the ocean yearly. Most of it is plastic in various forms. Americans use roughly 100 billion plastic bags per year. Plastic contains toxins, and absorbs more toxins as it breaks into pieces. Tiny fish eat the pieces, larger fish eat tiny fish, and we eventually eat the larger fish. Of the 120 marine mammals on the IUCN Red List, over half are known to have been entangled by, or ingested, plastic. Estimates are as high as 1.5 million marine animals killed a year by it. Plastic is a big issue. This video provides a very human look at the problem.

In addition to the stuff far out to sea, there’s plenty of trash in view on local beaches and waterways. And that’s where we come in. While most of us aren’t going to spend weeks or months sailing across the ocean in a plastic bottle boat, we can join a beach cleanup for an hour on a Saturday morning.


The Ocean Conservancy has been doing this for 26 years with their International Coastal Cleanup events. Last year 598,076 volunteers removed 9.2 million pounds of trash from 20,000 miles of coastlines. It’s not a high tech or glorious solution, it’s simple, and effective: get a bunch of people together and pick up trash.


Here’s a site with locations for this year’s events, on September 15.

Other friends of ours doing cleanups on Coastal Cleanup day include:

Surfrider – 77 chapters nation-wide (and some international ones) organizing individual events. Find a chapter near you.

Heal the Bay – 60 sites from Long Beach to Malibu.

SD Coast Keeper – over 80 cleanup sites throughout San Diego County.


If you can’t make it, or there isn’t an event near you, you can always pick up a little trash wherever you are. Better yet, organize your own cleanup, even if it’s just you and a few friends. Like the old saying goes, think globally, act locally. You’d be amazed how empowering it is to look down a long swath of beach and see nothing but sand, sticks and seaweed after a few hours of effort.


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