THE 2019 International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day will be held next Saturday, September 21. This cleanup activity was started by “Ocean Conservancy” on a beach in Texas, USA, in 1986. Since then, the ICC has expanded to over 150 countries, the Philippines included, and has mobilized millions of volunteers to remove more than 136 million kilograms of trash from beaches and waterways around the globe. Ocean Conservancy is a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., USA.

A one-day beach cleanup hardly makes a difference given the huge volume of trash in our oceans. But that is not the intention really. Like other one-day environmental events such as Earth Day and Earth Hour, the main objective is to raise awareness on global environmental issues. In the case of ICC, it is to call attention to the harm that ocean trash cause to marine animals. Also, the clean-up provides a glimpse of the kind of trash we throw into the oceans.

Scientists, researchers, industry leaders and policymakers rely on Ocean Conservancy’s database to inform policy and determine solutions to the growing ocean plastic pollution crisis. Every year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flow into the ocean. More than 800 animal species have been impacted by plastics, which may never fully biodegrade but rather break up into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.

Recently, the Ocean Conservancy released the results of the 2018 International Coastal Cleanup. For the first time, there were more than 1 million volunteers around the world. In all, 1,080,358 volunteers in more than 120 countries collected 97.5 million pieces of trash weighing 10.6 million kilograms.

As in previous years, cigarette butts—which contain plastic filters—topped the list at approximately 5.7 million collected; with food wrappers (just over 3.7 million), plastic straws and stirrers (just under 3.7 million), plastic cutlery (nearly 2 million), and plastic beverage bottles (nearly 1.8 million) rounding out the top five.

Other items collected are 1.39 million plastic bottle caps, close to a million plastic grocery bags, more than nine hundred thousand other plastic bags, more than seven hundred thousand plastic lids and more than six hundred thousand plastic cups and plates. With these latest results, more than 15 million volunteers have collected nearly 143 million kilograms of trash from beaches and waterway worldwide since 1986 including more than 69,000 toys and over 16,000 appliances.

Among the participating countries, I’m proud to say that the Philippines tops the list with 276,120 volunteers and 362 tons of garbage collected. The United States placed second followed by Hong Kong, Ecuador, Tanzania, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Mexico, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Kenya, Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Panama, Norway, India, Peru and Venezuela.

Every year there are also “weird” finds such as a wedding dress, car seat, chandelier, vacuum cleaner, boom box, and even dentures.