Washington, D.C. – More than 1,000 volunteers gathered on Kingman and Heritage Islands in the Anacostia River this past Saturday, September 21 for Ocean Conservancy’s flagship International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) event. This was the largest D.C. ICC event in history, with a record number of volunteers collecting 6365.6 pounds of trash in just a few short hours.
“I am absolutely blown away with how many volunteers took time out of their weekends and joined the cleanup,” said Allison Schutes, Director of the International Coastal Cleanup. “I’m particularly inspired by all of the young people and students who came out in droves and were already so informed on the issue of ocean plastic. It is really amazing to see so many people rolling up their sleeves to protect our ocean.”
A majority of the trash collected consisted of the top ten items that ICC volunteers find around the world, including food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic bags and take out containers. Volunteers collected a number of more unusual pieces, as well. Some of the “weird finds” included a car seat, an oversized badminton birdie and a washing machine.
In addition to cleanup efforts, volunteers also enjoyed breakfast and lunch, live music by the local band Crush Funk Brass, and an ocean-themed photo booth. Volunteers received a t-shirt, a reusable metal cup and, new this year, a reusable metal spork in an effort to encourage people to #QuitTheCutlery. Plastic utensils, which are among the most harmful types of marine debris to ocean animals, ranked among the top ten items collected globally last year for the first time in ICC history.
“A plastic spoon takes five seconds to produce, it’s used for five minutes to eat, and it takes five centuries to break down,” noted European Union Ambassador to the U.S Stavros Lambrinidis in his opening remarks at the cleanup. This year’s D.C. cleanup was supported by the EU Delegation.
Eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year, impacting more than 800 species of wildlife. While Ocean Conservancy believes a suite of solutions are necessary to solve the ocean plastic crisis, cleanups are an important way of raising awareness of the issue while having an immediate impact on local waterways.
“While it may not seem like it as we stand nearly 100 miles away from the closest beach, your actions today have a direct impact on the health of our ocean,” said Emily Woglom, Ocean Conservancy Executive Vice President. “Trash travels. Rivers and waterways like the Anacostia are major vectors that bring trash to our ocean.”
This sentiment was echoed by Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program Nancy Wallace in her opening remarks, who encouraged volunteers to take notice of what trash they collected and to think about how they could “make a small change that can have a really big impact on this issue.”
Results for the global 2019 ICC will be released next year after data from cleanups worldwide has been collected and analyzed. Ocean Conservancy’s 35th annual ICC will be held in September 2020.
About Ocean Conservancy
Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit www.oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program
Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, trash-free ocean since 1986, when the organization launched its first annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) on a beach in Texas. Since then, the ICC has expanded to over 150 countries and has mobilized millions of volunteers to remove more than 300 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways around the globe, all the while logging each item and building the world’s largest database on marine debris.