September kicks off coastal cleanup season and that means it’s time for the 36th annual International Coastal Cleanup! Every year, the Ocean Conservancy brings people together from around the blue globe for this international effort to act locally and clean up marine debris in their communities. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to have partnered with the Ocean Conservancy and supported the International Coastal Cleanup for 15 years to combat marine debris. During that time, participation has swelled from 350,000 in 2006 to almost a million volunteers in 2019! Despite a challenging year, during the 2020 cleanup over 220,000 volunteers participated in solo or small groups to collect more than 5 million pounds of trash! Cigarette butt debris returned to the top of the list as the most-collected item worldwide, followed by plastic beverage bottles and food wrappers (e.g., candy, chips, other flexible food packaging).
This year, we’re still facing many of the same challenges, and we’ll continue to be creative and find safe ways to participate and contribute to this global event. On September 18, and all throughout the month of September, you can join the collective effort of the 2021 International Coastal Cleanup by choosing a favorite local park, beach, or waterway to do your cleanup. We’re encouraging volunteers to take this as an opportunity to reconnect with nature and with one another in small groups or pods of family, friends, or coworkers. Wherever you are, and whoever you’re with, you’ll be part of a worldwide volunteer community working together to make a difference and protect our ocean and Great Lakes.
Your local cleanup efforts will contribute to something bigger as people around the world remove trash, collect data, and make their mark on the problem. Find more information on how to conduct a safe, small group cleanup, find cleanup events near you, and learn about the Clean Swell app on the Ocean Conservancy website. While you’re out, don’t forget to bring along gloves to protect your hands as well as face coverings or masks to keep you and others safe. Please also follow Center for Disease Control guidelines and any instructions or guidance provided by your local health agencies.
Although we’re spending another year at a distance, we’ll all continue to stay connected and work together in spirit to clean up waterways and shorelines and keep our ocean free of debris!