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Stemming the Tide of Trash: International Coastal Cleanup

September 19, 2008

Florida - It's a day that organizers hope will eventually lead to a sea change. The 23rd annual "International Coastal Cleanup" on Saturday is a worldwide effort to clean up beaches and raise awareness about the problem posed by trash washing into the ocean and killing wildlife. Last year, nearly 30,000 volunteers in Florida walked about 2,000 miles of coastline, picking up almost half a million pounds of trash ranging from straws and fishing line to toilets. Among the more unusual items was a straight jacket. Event organizer Michele Capots, with the Ocean Conservancy, says the effort gives people a chance to make a difference.

"All over the world, people are banning together to have a positive impact on the health of the ocean."

Capots says trash has made the ocean sick, and the cure is cleaning up our garbage. She says even Mickey and Minnie are expected to help out on Saturday.

Laurie MacDonald, Florida director of Defenders of Wildlife, says human carelessness causes serious problems for wildlife, whether it is an individual animal tangled in a fishing line or the effect of unclean water on whole populations. Marine debris kills more than a million seabirds nationally each year, and more than 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, she says, adding that carelessness in the United States even endangers marine animals in other nations.

"What shows up along our coastline may be an item that traveled all the way from an interior river, downstream to the estuary and on to the beach. Or it may be an item that began its journey thousands of miles away in another country."

Organizers say while the International Coastal Cleanup will help, it will be just a drop in the ocean if people don't deal more responsibly with their trash.

More information on the cleanup is available online at

Gina Presson/Steve Powers, Public News Service - FL