By Daniel Neville, Thereza Zephir, & Eleanor Trese
OCT. 2, 2019
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to marine life in the modern era. To help combat this enormous problem, the Ocean Conservancy has organized an event called the International Coastal Cleanup. The first Coastal Cleanup was organized in 1986. Since then, the event has spread to more than twenty countries across the world with over a million volunteers. It has also gained support from major businesses such as the Coca-Cola Foundation, Bank of America, American Express, the CVS Health Foundation, and the Dow Chemical Company.
The volunteers who attend these events collect thousands of pounds of trash every year. Globally, the 2018 event racked up a total of 97,457,984 items of trash collected, weighing in at 23,333,816 pounds, along 22,301.3 miles of coastline, with the oddest finds including a chandelier, game console, boombox, Christmas tree, traffic cone, and a dog sweater. Another major threat is microplastics, which are classified by the National Ocean Service as “Plastic debris… that are less than five millimeters in length”. This type of pollution is found everywhere on the planet. In fact “Researchers in Spain studying stranded dolphins discovered microplastics in the guts of every single dolphin found stranded on the Galician coast” according to a report by Ocean Conservancy. These plastic particles can be eaten by plankton and as the plankton, and plastic, moves further up the food chain, the plastic may find its way into human diets. The report goes on to say that this can become a serious problem especially since “… the University of Hawaii found that commonly used plastics like polyethylene… release two powerful greenhouse gases, methane and ethylene, when exposed to solar radiation or water.” The plastic problem is reaching epidemic proportions. Marine Biology Club Moderator Ms. Aimee Lowe from St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STA) said “… it’s estimated that by 2050 there is going to be more plastic in the ocean than fish, and I’m not talking about the number of pieces, I’m talking about pounds. So more pounds of plastic in the ocean than fish.”
In 2018, in the United States, 226,889 people volunteered to pick up 3,867,269 pounds of trash along 11,961.9 miles of coast. This year in Hollywood Beach, Florida the event was hosted by the STA Marine Biology Club and STA’s SurfRider Foundation chapter, as well as the Free Our Seas organization.
You can join the cleanup by contacting Ms. Aimee Lowe at STA or by visiting the Ocean Conservancy website and finding a cleanup location near you, or starting a new location yourself!