Each year in September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers of all ages from every continent band together to form an enormous army of volunteers to clean up beaches, lakes, and streams both on land and underwater. The annual event is called the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) and is organized by the Ocean Conservancy to remove trash and clean up water sources and to promote pollution prevention by educating and empowering people to become a part of the marine debris solution.

The ICC emphasizes sustainable solutions by collecting data on the type of marine debris removed, which the Ocean Conservancy then compiles, analyzes, and tracks to determine what behaviors are causing the debris and what can be done to change them. The analyzed data is used to educate the public, business, industry, and government officials about the problem so that long-lasting solutions can be developed. Types of debris reported include: aluminum cans, plastic bags, glass bottles, dock lumber, cigarette butts, hypodermic needles, hats, shoes, bait buckets, fishing line, crab trap floats, bicycles, boats and boat parts, furniture, etc. All of these items are harmful to marine life. In 2005, 450,000 volunteers removed 8.2 million pounds of debris from 18,000 miles of coasts spanning the globe in 74 different nations. Since the ICC’s inception in 1986, 6.2 million volunteers have removed a grand total of 109 million pounds of debris from the world’s beaches and waterways — 179 million miles of shoreline in 127 different nations.

Where is the trash coming from? According to the data collected over time, 59 percent is from land-based shoreline and recreational activities and a whopping 29 percent is smoking-related activities alone. The remainder comes from a mix of oceanic activities, medical or hygienic materials, and ocean dumping.

If you are interested in participating in future cleanups contact ICC Coordinators via the Before the Cleanup page »