Coastal cleanup by the numbers
This year, the International Coastal Cleanup was a back in full swing and was a success! At least 140 volunteers braved the rain to remove nearly 2,500 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 18, 2021. Volunteers collected more than 7,908 individual pieces of trash, and larger items were stacked on a trailer.
The cooler weather helped volunteers stay out longer and 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 2017-2019 International Coastal Cleanups were plastic. In both 2018 and 2019, just 7 out of the top 10 items in Cedar Key’s cleanup were plastic. In both 2020 and 2021, the global data showed nine out of ten items were plastic. But only 6 out of the top 10 items in Cedar Key trash were plastic. In 2021, however, all of the top five items were plastic. 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.
Cigarette butts, the number one global item several years running, appear to be on the general decline in Cedar Key. Interestingly, glass items declined this year after creeping up in the rankings the past two years. Glass is not accepted at local recycling centers. Since that rule went into effect, we hypothesized that rule that glass items would remain high in the rankings. This will be an important aspect to track in future years. Another important trend that the Ocean Conservancy just started tracking in 2020 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 and 46 in 2021.
What to do?
Until January 1, 2022, you can donate to the #TEAMSEAS effort to help fund global efforts to clean up plastic from the ocean. I joined Team Seas, myself!
Longer term, you can be part of the solution! 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!