Coastal cleanup by the numbers
Despite the challenges thrown at us by 2020, this year’s “contactless” version of the International Coastal Cleanup was a success! At least 155 volunteers removed nearly 2,700 pounds of trash from local shorelines. This is similar to the total amount of trash collected in 2018. The cleanup occurred on the morning of September 19, 2020. Volunteers collected more than 7,300 individual pieces of trash that were contained in 35 trash bags, while larger items (see left) were stacked on a trailer.
Because volunteers spread out more and cleaned in smaller groups, we were able to cover a lot of ground! More than 20 miles of shoreline were cleaned up by these wonderful and generous volunteers. Many volunteers were on foot cleaning the main island of Cedar Key, while others headed out on boats to clean the offshore keys surrounding the island. Given the challenges we are all facing, the volunteers who turned out this year deserve extra thanks and praise!
Comparison to global trends
How do the items collected in Cedar Key compare to items collected globally? The Ocean Conservancy reports that all of the top 10 items collected during the last three International Coastal Cleanups (2017-2019) were plastic. In both 2018 and 2019, just 7 out of the top 10 items in Cedar Key’s cleanup were plastic. This year, only 6 out of the top 10 items in Cedar Key trash were plastic. However, four of the top five items were plastic and the overall number of plastic items has increased with time. This is in line with global trends, and highlights the need for individuals to act to reduce their plastic use.
Interestingly, we have seen glass items creep up in the rankings this year (glass bottles and glass pieces) this year. It is tempting to speculate that this trend is related to glass no longer being accepted at local recycling centers. This will be an important aspect to track in future years. Another important trend that the Ocean Conservancy just started tracking this year is personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks. Unfortunately, these items are already apparent as trash items in our Cedar Key cleanup, with 49 PPE items collected in 2020.
What to do?
If you want to be part of the solution, you can start by reducing or eliminating single-use plastics from your daily life. Opt for a reusable cloth mask instead of a disposable one (the disposable ones are made of plastic). You can get started in other ways by skipping straws or other items, and expand out from there. You can also make sure you discard of trash responsibly in coastal areas. Never place trash or recycling in overflowing bins as it’s likely to blow away and end up in a nearby waterway. Favor lidded trash cans and recycling bins when discarding of trash. And, of course, help out a shoreline near you by picking up trash during annual cleanup events or regular beach visits. You can #BeTheSolution and help #BeatPlasticPollution!