Hundreds of volunteers converged on Kingman Island to participate in the flagship event of Ocean Conservancy’s 32nd International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the world’s largest single-day volunteer effort to remove trash from local waterways, beaches, lakes and rivers. Armed with gloves and trash bags, volunteers recovered thousands of pounds of trash from along the Anacostia in Washington D.C., contributing to the more than 12 million volunteers who have removed more than 220 million pounds of trash since the first ICC more than three decades ago.
“Right now, all around the country and all around the world, hundreds of thousands of people are doing exactly what you are doing: they’re at their local beach, or river, or park; they are with family, or friends—or maybe they are making new friends; and they are rolling up their sleeves and taking action to keep the ocean clean,” said Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones in opening remarks. Noting Kingman Island’s proximity to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, she added, “Make no mistake: every little piece of trash we collect and log here today is one less item threatening beloved ocean wildlife and communities.”
“If each of us can inspire just one person to either be a trash picker-upper or to reduce the amount of disposable and plastic items they use in their daily lives, we can prevent marine debris from even happening,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, Deputy Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, at the event. “We can fix this. This is a doable issue.”
In addition to removing thousands of pounds of trash from along the Anacostia River, volunteers contributed to the world’s largest database on marine debris by logging each trash item in Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell mobile app. Scientists, researchers, industry leaders and policymakers rely on Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Trash Index to inform policy and determine solutions to the growing marine debris crisis.
Every year, millions of tons of trash—including an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste—flow into the ocean, entangling wildlife, polluting beaches, and costing coastal municipalities hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Items like cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws are among the most-commonly collected items. They are also among the deadliest to wildlife like seabirds and sea turtles. Plastics—which never fully biodegrade but rather break up into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics—are of concern. Scientists predict that without concerted global action, there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fin fish in the ocean by 2025.
Innovate’s team was comprised of peers, friends, and family. Joni Ecarma, a Manager on the Business Consulting team, participated alongside her mother and six year old daughter: “We charged together down a dirt hill; the ground seemed to be a clean and the view of the water seemed to be clear. But as we looked harder and took more steps through the bushes, we found bottles. Not just one or two. Dozens of plastic water bottles lined the ground, along with other trash. I looked up from the trash for a moment, to see my daughter holding five bottles and eyeing more. She was determined as ever to pick up all the trash she saw. I am thankful for my mother, for passing down her mutual love and concern for the planet to me. And I am inspired to see my daughter, with a mind of her own, pave the way for future generations to love and take care of our great planet.”
“This event was a giant reaffirmation that I am not alone in wanting to sustain the planet. It’s hard when you feel like not enough people care about something so important. Seeing all these volunteers picking up litter is an inspiration,” said Michele Carneiro, a Proposal Manager with Innovate.
Janaina Stanley, an Innovate Recruiter, shared her gratitude for the opportunity to be reminded of how much trash is washing up on our shores: “Living in DC where you don’t see Styrofoam as often or do your best to bring reusable bags, it’s easy to forget about the trash and litter polluting our waters. The event brought awareness, an opportunity to meet local people looking to make a difference as well and was a great workout! I’ll be looking forward to future events with our Innovate team and the Ocean Conservancy or other local organizations.”
Special thanks to all the volunteers across the world who participated in the clean-up and to the Ocean Conservancy for organizing the effort!
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Photos Courtesy of: Joy Asico
Additional photos from the event can be found here, and are attributable to Ocean Conservancy/Joy Asico. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org.