The Blog Aquatic » litter http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 How to Keep the Ocean Healthy While Working Toward a Healthier You http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/14/green-your-workout/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/14/green-your-workout/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 15:00:47 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3938 a runner at the beach

Credit: puuikibeach via Flickr

Looking for some extra motivation to keep that resolution to go to the gym? How about saving the planet? It’s easy to incorporate small changes into your workout routine that will actually benefit our ocean’s health.

Here are four ways you can help keep the ocean healthy while working toward a healthier you: 

  1. Take a reusable water bottle to the gym. The average American uses 167 plastic bottles per year, and these long-lived disposables are among the top debris items littering coastlines and waterways around the world. You can help keep plastic beverage bottles out of our ocean by keeping a refillable water bottle in your gym bag. You’ll be able to stay hydrated and save money.
  1. Rethink your commute. Cars are the largest component of a typical household’s carbon footprint, burning lots of fossil fuels but not a lot of calories. Try walking, biking or incorporating public transportation into your commuting routine to increase your daily activity level while helping keep our air and water cleaner and healthier.
  1. Carry a trash bag when you head out for a hike. No matter how far you live from the coast, trash can travel via storm drains, streams and waterways out to the open ocean. If your workout takes you outdoors, pick up any litter you find along the way. Each time you squat to collect debris, you’ll be working your lower body—and depending how much you haul away, you may get an upper-body workout as well.
  1. Be a responsible boater. If your workout takes you out on the water, make sure you know how to keep the ocean clean and healthy while on the water and at the dock. Follow Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate tips to help protect shallow reefs, keep pollutants out of the water and ensure you maintain a safe distance from aquatic wildlife.

 

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Bangladesh Cleanup Coordinator Bikes U.S. to Fight Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/10/bangladesh-cleanup-coordinator-bikes-u-s-to-fight-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/10/bangladesh-cleanup-coordinator-bikes-u-s-to-fight-ocean-trash/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2012 16:54:12 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2774 Riding along the highway

Credit: Muntasir Mamun

Muntasir Mamun was stopped at a gas station in Dayton, Ohio, when he saw a woman helping kids pick up the trash in their neighborhood.

As the International Coastal Cleanup Coordinator in Bangladesh, Muntasir would have found this scene inspiring in any context. But the fact that he was on a 3,500-mile bike ride across the United States to raise awareness about the impacts of trash made the moment all the more sweet.

Road to recovery

Traveling on a bicycle built for two, Muntasir and fellow activist Mohammad Ujjal wanted to get a sense of the amount of plastic and other waste they would encounter as they crossed the country.

They rode from Seattle to Washington, D.C., along highways and country roads, through cities and open spaces. And they rarely found a single mile without at least a beverage bottle or can, Muntasir says.

The bike in front of Mt. Rushmore

Credit: Muntasir Mamun

So why travel halfway around the world for a bike ride? Muntasir and Mohammad chose the United States because it has one of the highest consumption rates for plastic-based products and is one of the largest consumer markets for bottled water.

Muntasir says he hopes that by raising awareness about the issue, people will think twice the next time they use a plastic product.

“By undertaking this journey, we were trying to raise public awareness as to the impacts of trash not only on the immediate environment where it may be carelessly discarded,” Muntasir says, “but also to encourage people to think about the environmental impact chain that reaches right back to its production.”

Bringing home the message

Now that his cross-country bike ride in the United States is over, Muntasir will be re-focused on trash-activism in Bangladesh. Through his adventure and advocacy organization, Kewkradong, Muntasir will be coordinating International Coastal Cleanup events to collect items like cigarette butts and food wrappers that litter the country’s coastline and waterways.

He says despite cultural differences, attitudes about trash in Bangladesh are similar to those in the United States: “Nobody likes to remove it, and nobody wants to admit that it’s because of our own activity.”

Muntasir hopes to change that by continuing with his pedal-powered activism. He says he and his friends are looking at other countries with high per-capita plastic consumption and planning their next adventure.

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High-flying Balloons Pose a Definite Downside for Ocean Wildlife http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/29/high-flying-balloons-pose-a-definite-downside-for-ocean-wildlife/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/29/high-flying-balloons-pose-a-definite-downside-for-ocean-wildlife/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2012 16:24:11 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2499

Balloons that soar eventually fall, with serious impacts for wildlife.
Credit: Jerry Downs flickr stream

What’s more joyful than the sight of colorful balloons soaring up into the blue sky? People release festive bunches of them for lots of reasons, including to

  • celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries
  • commemorate the passing of a loved one
  • inspire excitement at sporting events
  • announce the opening of a business or a super sales event

And sometimes they simply escape our grasp and go skyward.

What goes up must come down
Alas, balloons eventually fall back to Earth. That’s when the dark side of their existence begins. When balloons and their ribbons or strings fall or blow into the ocean and waterways, wildlife can suffer and die.

“Like many other forms of synthetic debris, balloons can resemble prey and pose a threat to all kinds  of marine organisms around the world, many of which are threatened or endangered,” says Ocean Conservancy Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos.

Trash in the water, including balloons, affects more than 260 species worldwide.
Animals, birds and fish get sick or choke when they eat balloon fragments and plastic valves and attachments.  Many others marine animals drown when they get entangled in trailing ribbon or string.

Pictures tell the grim story, along with scientific research like this:

Ocean Conservancy promotes solutions
Ocean Conservancy and volunteers all around the world have worked together to help identify this wildlife threat by tracking balloons (along with other ocean trash) for more than 25 years through the International Coastal Cleanup.

Last year alone, volunteers picked up 93,913 balloons littering waterways and the ocean. We’re proud of our long history of putting numbers like that to use promoting positive change for the sea.

For example, back in 1990, International Coastal Cleanup volunteers picked up an astounding 30 pounds of balloons along Virginia’s Assateague Island on the Atlantic Ocean on just one day.

Analysts found that the balloons—many imprinted with the names of businesses or events—came from 52 sources in six states.

Ocean Conservancy presented the data—and the balloons—to the Virginia Assembly, and in 1991 the state legislature passed a law prohibiting mass balloon releases. Today releasing big quantities of balloons is against the law in a number of places.

Enjoy balloons – but hold on
Like many of the volunteers who help run the International Coastal Cleanup, Virginia Coordinator Katie Register of Clean Virginia Waterways works hard to raise awareness about ocean trash— including balloons.

“Go ahead and celebrate—but now that you know the down side, just make sure balloons don’t become litter,” says Register. “There are easy solutions, like attaching weights to the ribbon to keep a balloon from going into the sky if a child lets go.”

As word spreads around the world, hopefully more people will choose to mark their celebrations in ways that don’t harm ocean life. In the United Kingdom, for example, International Coastal Cleanup Coordinator Lauren Davis works for the Marine Conservation Society, which runs an education program called “Don’t Let Go.”

“There are so many positive emotions attached to balloon releases that sometimes it’s hard to get people to understand,” says Register, who recommends options that allow for safe disposal of balloons—or better yet, celebratory actions that don’t generate any trash.

Here are a few:

  • Drop balloons downward in a festive cascade in gyms, churches or ballrooms.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Donate a book to the library.
  • Blow bubbles.

You can help protect wildlife and our ocean by growing the worldwide movement for trash free seas. Be mindful of ways you can properly dispose of trash in your daily life. Reduce as much as you can. And join like-minded ocean lovers around the world for the upcoming International Coastal Cleanup on September 15.

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How to Make a Good Day on the Water Great: 5 Tips to Reduce Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/02/how-to-make-a-good-day-on-the-water-great-5-tips-to-reduce-trash-2/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/02/how-to-make-a-good-day-on-the-water-great-5-tips-to-reduce-trash-2/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 15:00:41 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1537

Love clean water? Pick up as you go to keep it that way! Credit: JohnCramerPhotography flickr user

With record temperatures coloring the weather map red across much of the country this summer, many of us are seeking relief on lakes, rivers, bays and the ocean. This past weekend, I beat the heat by floating blissfully down the Shenandoah River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in an inner tube.

But right away I saw that my fellow tubers and I weren’t the only things being carried downstream. Around me bobbed all kinds of trash heading for the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. Wind and ocean currents might even carry this trash to the North Pacific Gyre, or Pacific Garbage Patch.

My friend Steve and I made a fun and friendly competition of spotting and cleaning up Styrofoam cups, food wrappers, red-and-white fishing corks and even someone’s lost Croc.

There were so many single-use beverage containers,  I figured they likely bounced out of rafts or even people’s hands as they adventured through the rapids.

One of the most pervasive items was monofilament. We saw the sturdy fishing line everywhere—big snarls along with long, dangerous single strands almost impossible to see in the water, waiting to entangle hapless water birds, fish and other wildlife.

Collecting as much as we could carry, we wished we’d brought along a huge sack. But when we reached the outfitter’s pick up site at the end of the trip, a growing pile of trash was waiting for proper disposal thanks to our fellow adventurers.

It was great to see what a difference we’d all made together in one morning, working one by one. And it felt terrific knowing we left that beautiful river, a path to the ocean, cleaner than we found it.

How can each of us pitch in?

Simple: think ahead. If you’re going tubing, rafting, canoeing,  kayaking or heading out on a sailboat or power boat, it’s easy to protect wildlife and clean water.

  1. Take a bag—or two—for collecting trash; mesh lets the water drain out.
  2. Consider taking a dip net so you can easily snag items.
  3. Bring a reusable beverage bottle and secure it with twine so it doesn’t fall out and become trash; towing it in the water keeps your drink cool.
  4. Minimize trash when packing snacks or picnics.
  5. Recycle everything you can back onshore, including fishing line (find out about monofilament recycling here).

Got a notable experience with trash in the water you’d like to share, like finding weird items or large amounts of trash that surprised you? Share your story below in the comments section.

 

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Reduce Trash at Your July 4th Bash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/03/reduce-trash-at-your-july-4th-bash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/03/reduce-trash-at-your-july-4th-bash/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2012 18:02:29 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1436

This Fourth of July, celebrate your independence from unnecessary trash. Credit: flickr user Thomas Hawk

It’s time for the great American barbecues, picnics and parties that—along with patriotic music and fireworks—create great Independence Day memories.

Food, drink, décor and fireworks can mean a lot of trash—trash that often ends up in the ocean. That’s right, even if you live hundreds of miles from the ocean, trash from your area can travel down waterways to the sea, fouling the water and endangering wildlife.

How big is the problem? Last year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers picked up enough food packaging alone for one person to get takeout breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 858 years.

So if you’re planning to entertain on July 4th, think red, white and especially blue: Keep these tips in mind for a clean and healthy ocean:

1. Ask guests to bring their own reusable cup. (Added benefit: They can easily identify their drinks if they set them down.)

2. Place a recycling bin in plain sight.

3. If you get take-out, ask the deli to put potato salad or fried chicken directly on your serving platter to reduce throw-away containers that become trash.

4. Replace plastic knives, forks and spoons with the real thing.

5. After the party, roll up your mini-flags and other decorations and put them away for next year instead of pitching them.

6. Pick up all fireworks fragments that fall to the ground for proper disposal.

Got another tip? Leave it for others in the comments section below. And enjoy the holiday!

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