Beach Trash? Small Solutions to a Big Problem

Erik’s post Global Trash Ruins Hawaiian Beaches reminded me of participating in a beach clean-up in Singapore. Some trash, like Erik’s post mentioned, are from ships that either dumped trash on purpose or landed in the water by mistake. Strong gusts of wind? Someone eating at a ship’s railing and a plastic fork dropped or a shoe came off? Because Singapore is a major port, ship trash is a big problem.

The clean-up I participated in several years ago was part of the International Coastal Clean-up organized by the Ocean Conservancy. For the past 20 years the conservancy assigns groups to particular beaches to clean up what they can and keep track of what’s being dumped. According to their website, 300,000 people participated in 2005. The 2006 tally is not entered.

I remember that when we picked up trash we kept track by counting the number of pieces and the category. During this past year’s event, September 16, 2006, 1,865 people participated in Singapore. You can see the total results here. It’s amazing to see the variety of things collected. The photo was taken by Steve Early, a friend of mine, who still teaches science at the Singapore American School. I just happened to find this out when I went poking around looking for a photograph. Small world. The school’s trash duty assignment was at the Kranji Mangroves.

The next International Coastal Clean-up is not until this coming September, but there are plenty of other smaller opportunities to pick trash up along beaches until then. Here are a sampling of three that happen every month. If you know of more, tell us. It would be neat to participate in a beach clean-up in other parts of the world. All this reminds me that when I’m at a beach somewhere and see that piece of trash that doesn’t belong, it’s not that much work to bend down and pick it up.

  • Save Our Shores out of Santa Cruz, CA offers Interpretive Beach Clean-ups where participants learn about the ecosystem of the area as well. There are clean-ups scheduled almost every month.
  • The 3rd Saturday of every month there’s “Justin Rudd’s 30-minute Beach Clean-up” in Long Beach, CA. The site also has a terrific video ad.
  • Blue Ocean organizes beach clean-ups in New Hampshire.