Plastic Cutlery Moves Into Top Ten List Of Trash Found On Beaches

As the world increasingly recognizes the plastics crisis facing our oceans, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup report reveals that plastic cutlery has rocketed into the top ten list of items found on beaches.

Plastic is choking our world. 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year and it’s even being found in some of the most remote places on Earth, such as the Arctic.

In 2018, over one million volunteers worked with the Ocean Conservancy to clean up as much trash as they could find before it could kill marine wildlife such as whales, turtles and birds.

They even kept count of all the items collected and when the final tab was calculated for a detailed report, the organization discovered that plastic cutlery, including spoons, knives and forks, has jumped into the top ten of trash items picked up.

“Plastic forks, knives and spoons are ranked among the most harmful types of marine debris to ocean animals, and the 2018 ICC data show that they may be a lot more prevalent than we had previously suspected,” said Nicholas Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® program. “In addition to skipping the straw, we hope people see this and choose to quit the cutlery, too—by bringing their own when planning to eat on the go.”

Among other trash found was old fishing gear, plastic bags, balloons, cigarette butts, and plastic bottle caps, all of which can easily kill an animal that has mistaken it for prey and digested it.

For instance, balloon and straws are particularly gruesome killers of birds, even those that don’t live on the coast. So all those balloons people release during celebrations are actually resulting in the deaths of creatures miles away from where they were released into the air.

Plastics are the number one item found on the list overall.

According to the Ocean Conservancy:

In all, 1,080,358 volunteers in more than 120 countries collected 23.3 million pounds (or 10.6 million kilograms) of trash during last year’s ICC. 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.

Several corporations and grocery store chains are currently making an effort to phase out plastics, including Cola-Cola and Pepsi, as well as Hasbro and many others.

Still, it’s just not enough because the Ocean Conservancy pulls more than just these items out of the environment.

In years past, volunteers have recovered wedding dresses, washing machines, mattresses, and more. Notable “weird finds” from the 2018 ICC included a chandelier, a fake Christmas tree, a garage door, and a cash register. Globally, volunteers recovered more than 69,000 toys and over 16,000 appliances.

Frankly, it’s an epidemic that requires government action around the world to force changes that would save our oceans and the creatures living in and around it.

Thankfully, millions of volunteers around the world are already doing their part.

“We are so moved by the incredible turnout in 2018, and we are gearing up for other million-strong volunteers showing up this year,” said Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones. “The ICC numbers speak for themselves: together, we can make a difference – for our community, for our coasts, and for our ocean.”

And many people are bringing their own reusable cutlery with them wherever they go rather than having to rely on disposable plastic cutlery that will add to the growing problem.

Let’s just hope the rest of the world will get on board and stop the pervasiveness of plastics that has gone on for too long.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.
 

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