The Blog Aquatic » beaches News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 My Labor of Love Wed, 21 May 2014 13:30:41 +0000 Guest Blogger

Colleen Rankin is a debris cleanup veteran. She lives in Blue Fox Bay, Alaska. Colleen regularly hauls debris from miles away back to her home, where she re-uses whatever she can and stores the rest for eventual disposal.

I am fortunate to live in one of the most remote locations on Earth. I have one seasonal neighbor 5 miles away and another family 25 miles from there. The closest town is 40 miles from us. All of us live on different islands separated by the powerful waters of the Gulf of Alaska. To live here is to witness the rhythm of the interdependent cycles of life on these beaches  ̶  the sea depositing kelp and seashells on the shorelines, creating what I call the line of life. We see bears, birds and other animals foraging in them. We call it the ocean’s gift of nutrition.  I have felt a part of an ancient world. But that is changing. And even here on the coast of Alaska, I’m surrounded every day by reminders of people from far away places.

That’s because the beaches near my home are literally covered in plastic, trash and netting. I take my skiff out and fill it with debris, stopping only because the boat is full to capacity. The beaches are accumulating trash at an alarming rate, and I am giving back to this beautiful place that has enriched my life so much in the most obvious way I can. And that is cleaning the beaches, sometimes the same beach over and over.

I separate the debris so that records can be kept to find out what the trash consists of. The largest growing category is plastic. Almost every piece of plastic debris I find that can fit in a bear’s mouth has bite marks on it – the bears and other animals are fascinated with plastic, and they chew it.

Every time I see a plastic bottle lying on the beautiful beach, I wonder how many of these one-use items do we use in a year? It’s a real chance for us to look at our lives as a species and ask, “What are we gaining by their use? Is it to save time? And are we actually improving our lives with that time we think we are saving?”

That’s why I think it’s so important that you and I pledge to reduce our use of plastic every day.

I used to feel like it was impossible to conquer all of this plastic and trash in the ocean, but now I’m amazed by what I’ve seen happen in the last year with the increase in awareness and the motivation of people like you to reduce the amount of plastic you use every day.

I know now that I’m not alone. Last year, 648,015 people like you volunteered at International Coastal Clean-up events across the country, and cleaned 12,329,332 pounds off of 12,910 miles of coast.

Ocean Conservancy has just released its latest Data Report, and you’d be surprised by what they’ve found! Items like straws, bottle caps and plastic bags are among the items you’ll find in the Top 10 List, and they’re all things that you and I can reduce.

I hope you’ll join me in the fight to prevent plastic pollution in our ocean. I know firsthand that every one of us can make a difference – from my home in Alaska to your town.

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What Does 10 Million Pounds of Trash Look Like? Tue, 14 May 2013 13:00:33 +0000 Nick Mallos

Volunteers mark the data card while throwing away trash at the International Coastal Cleanup at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge in Kahuku, Hawaii. credit — Elyse Butler

Take your pick: 41 blue whales, 10 Boeing 747 jumbo jets, 5,000 tons or 10 million pounds. Whichever one you prefer, that’s roughly the weight of trash that was collected by volunteers during Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 International Coastal Cleanup (Cleanup). More than 10 million pounds of trash – that’s an astounding amount.

Each year in September, citizen scientists around the world mobilize during the Cleanup to remove plastic trash and other debris from the world’s shorelines, waterways and underwater habitats. Tallies of trash recorded by the more than 550,000 volunteers who participated in the 2012 Cleanup are a snapshot of the persistent and proliferating problem of trash on our beaches and in our ocean.

The most commonly found items of trash plaguing our coastlines are the same products we use in our everyday lives and households: food wrappers, plastic utensils, beverage containers and, as always, the most incessant item were cigarettes with more than two million butts collected. Much like cigarettes, plastics bags have always been atop the list of trash items, and in 2012 they were still unable to elude volunteers. The one million plus (1,019,902) plastic bags picked up were the fourth most abundant item of trash found, bringing the 27 year total to just under 10 million bags. The amount of oil required to manufacture this quantity of bags is in excess of 1,175 barrels, or enough gasoline to drive a car around the Earth three times (approx. 75,000 miles).

The items volunteers find on the beach are not only unnatural to the ocean, but are dangerous to marine organisms that depend on healthy ecosystems. And whether it’s the smallest bottle cap or the weirdest finds, like the 117 mattresses collected, every piece of trash affects the health of our ocean, and subsequently our economy, environment and health.

Every piece of trash that is picked up during the Cleanup should be a challenge for change. Trash simply shouldn’t be in the ocean or on a beach. The items we use – or don’t use – have a lasting impact. Trash doesn’t start and stop at the trash can, and out of sight doesn’t mean out of our ocean. For too long we’ve focused our attention on plastics and other debris by looking at the beach and seaward, when in reality, emphasis should’ve been concentrated between the beach, trash can and beyond.

We have a responsibility all year long to reduce, remove and reinvent – we all have a role to play. The good news is that everyone can be a part of the solution for trash free seas. Here are three things you can do right now to help tackle trash:

  1. Pledge to fight trash: What would happen if 10,000 people decided not to make as much trash for one month? We could reduce the trash on Earth by over 1 million pounds. Take the pledge to help turn the tide on trash.
  2. Download Rippl Ocean Conservancy’s free mobile application that helps you make simple, sustainable lifestyle choices.
  3. Mark your calendar for September 21 so that you can be part of the next International Coastal Cleanup.

Solutions are built on individual actions of people, organizations and companies, but it will take a collective movement to make a lasting difference. Whether it’s by changing our habits to create less trash, pushing industries and governments to find alternative uses or funding innovative scientific research, the time is now for everyone to work together to find a solution to make our beaches and seas trash free.

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