Every Piece, Every Person, Every Community: Building on 30 Years of the International Coastal Cleanup

Back in 1986, Linda Maraniss moved to Texas from Washington, DC, where she had been working for Ocean Conservancy (then called the Center for Environmental Education). She had been deeply impressed by the work her Ocean Conservancy colleague Kathy O’Hara was doing on a groundbreaking report called Plastics in the Ocean: More than a Litter Problem that would be published the next year.

When Linda discovered a Texas beach covered with huge amounts of things like plastic containers and old rope, she knew this trash posed a serious threat to wildlife and ecosystems. And she felt compelled to take action.

Linda and Kathy reached out to the Texas General Land Office and other dedicated ocean-lovers, and planned what would become the first official Cleanup. They asked volunteers to go beyond picking up trash and record each item collected on a standardized data card in order to identify ways to eliminate ocean trash in the future.

The Cleanup has grown immensely in the 30 years since Linda and Kathy’s first Cleanup. It has become the perfect illustration of what can be accomplished when people come together around a common goal. Renee Tuggle, Texas State Coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup, has been involved since the very first beginning.

“What I have learned from the Cleanup experience,” Renee said, “is that even though the Cleanup started in Texas with a small number of 2,800 volunteers… it has grown into a massive cleanup that involves both national and international volunteers all pitching in for the same common goal of cleaning up our coastal waters and taking care of our beaches. I am proud to be a part of this global movement and I appreciate all of the help and support I get from the Ocean Conservancy staff.”

Other volunteers talked about the impacts they’ve seen the Cleanup have on the community. “It has been very rewarding being able to see throughout my 13 years how people have become more environmentally aware,” said Mexico coordinator Alejandra López. “We can sense this by increasing the number of volunteers at our International Coastal Cleanup every year. Also, local authorities have taken more responsibility in locations like Playa Miramar and Laguna del Carpintero.”

Renee and Alejandra’s remarks are great reminders of just a handful of the valuable lessons we’ve learned since the Cleanup’s beginning. Most of all, we’ve learned that there’s a powerful community of volunteers who love the ocean as much as we do.  Don’t forget to sign up and get involved in the 30th International Coastal Cleanup.

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