Photo by Ocean Conservancy
This Saturday, September 25th marks the 25th annual International Coastal Clean-Up Day. The grassroots effort has worked miracles for marine litter over the last quarter century -- last year nearly half a million volunteers across 108 countries and 45 US states collected 7.4 million pounds of marine debris. And while that is a whole lot of trash taken off beaches and out of waterways, there is still so much more floating out there. In fact, the 2010 report by Ocean Conservancy, the non-profit that organizes and hosts the annual event, shows shocking statistics about what was collected last year, and what is still out there endangering our water quality and wildlife. Check out some of those incredible numbers after the jump.
According to the 2010 report by Ocean Conservancy, "Nearly 200,000 items tallied during the  Cleanup pose a direct public health threat. Debris from Dumping Activities (appliances, batteries, cars/car parts, and 55-gallon chemical drums) can release toxic compounds into the water, while items from the Medical/Personal Hygiene category (condoms, disposable diapers, syringes, and tampons/tampon applicators) may convey bacteria and other contaminants. Volunteers found 15,076 syringes world- wide during the 2009 Cleanup."
But the items that post a threat to humans seems small compared to what it does to wildlife. We've seen some vivid images from photographer Chris Jordan showing how lethal marine litter can be to birds, and International Coastal Clean-Up Day volunteers are also witness to the problems. During last year's clean-up, they found 336 birds and animals entangled in debris -- 120 alive and 216 already dead. And that's only what was found -- many more animals are trapped and killed out at sea.
"Marine litter is symptomatic of a wider malaise: namely the wasteful use and persistent poor management of natural resources. The plastic bags, bottles, and other debris piling up in the oceans and seas could be dramatically reduced by improved waste reduction, waste management, and recycling initiatives," states Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director.
We've become too used to the idea of "disposable" but the truth is there is no such thing as "away" where you can throw something. It all ends up somewhere. And hopefully this weekend, much of what has been tossed carelessly aside will be gathered up by volunteers beautifying our waterways. Sign up to be one of those volunteers getting out there on Saturday, September 25th .
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