WASHINGTON, DC – Volunteers collected nearly 5,000 pounds of trash on Kingman and Heritage Islands in the Anacostia River this past Saturday, October 13 during Ocean Conservancy’s flagship International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) event. That number is a new record for the annual D.C. ICC, normally held the third Saturday in September but postponed this year due to Hurricane Florence.
“I am so amazed by how much we were able to remove during this year’s cleanup,” said Allison Schutes, associate director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® program. “There was concern that rescheduling the cleanup and Saturday’s chilly, rainy weather would impact our numbers, but nearly 500 volunteers came out and completely blew our expectations out of the water by collecting even more than last year.”
A majority of the trash consisted of the top ten items that International Coastal Cleanup volunteers find around the world, including food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic bags and take out containers. However volunteers collected a number of more unusual pieces, as well. Winners of the “weird finds” contest included a mud-caked messenger bag, an ankle monitor, and a small statue.
In addition to cleaning up the park, participants enjoyed breakfast and lunch, live music by local band Waterside Vibes, lawn games, Halloween decorations made of trash as well as a photo booth with both ocean and Halloween props.
“When we rescheduled the cleanup to October we decided to lean into the Halloween theme to emphasize how ocean plastic is a monster-size problem,” said Julia Roberson, vice president of communications at Ocean Conservancy. “Once in the ocean, plastic exists forever—much like zombies and ghosts.”
Eight million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean every 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.
“Everybody contributes to marine debris in some way and therefore everyone has to be a part of the solution,” said RDML Tim Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, in opening remarks at Saturday’s event. “All of you are part of the solution.”
European Union Ambassador to the U.S. David O’Sullivan echoed this sentiment in opening remarks at the cleanup, citing the EU’s recently adopted plastics strategy and saying that “we all have to change our habits and practices in daily living.”
“Many thanks to Ocean Conservancy for the fantastic work you’ve done through the years in headlining this issue long before it became as politically important as it is now,” he added.
Results for the global 2018 ICC will be released next year after data from cleanups worldwide has been collected and analyzed. Ocean Conservancy’s 34th annual ICC is scheduled for September 21, 2019.
Note to editors: Ocean Conservancy experts are available for comment. Photos from the event are available at this link.
Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.