Tracking Trash: 25 Years of Action for the Ocean (ICC Report 2011)

Washington, DC: Ocean Conservancy is releasing today a new report titled “Tracking Trash: 25 Years of Action for the Ocean.” This milestone report compiles data and stories about trash in the ocean, known as marine debris, for every participating state and country, collected from 2010 and as well as 25 years of International Coastal Cleanups—the largest volunteer effort for the ocean.

The report also highlights solutions from individuals to inspire behavior change and from companies to accelerate product innovation.

With this report, Ocean Conservancy is expanding its efforts from an annual cleanup day to a year round campaign for “Trash Free Seas”.

“Images of entangled birds, turtles choking on plastic bags and floating trash have become all too familiar,” said Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “You name it, we have found it on the beach and in the water. We find beach litter like cigarette butts and plastic bags, toilet seats, washing machines, abandoned fishing gear—even the proverbial kitchen sink.”

“For twenty-five years we have watched as trash has threatened ocean wildlife and ecosystems; and undermined tourism and economic activity. We’ve seen more trash to clean up, but we’ve also seen more people inspired to be part of the solution.”

“Our vision is for Trash Free Seas,” said Spruill. “This problem is preventable, and keeping our ocean free from trash is one of the easiest ways we can make the ocean more resilient. From product design to trash disposal, we all have a role to play.”

Highlighted Findings from 2010 Coastal Cleanups

  • During the 25th annual Cleanup in 2010, over six hundred thousand (615,407) people removed more than eight million (8,698,572) pounds of trash.
  • In 2010, volunteers collected enough tires to outfit almost fifty-five hundred (5,464) cars.
  • In 2010 the amount of cigarettes/cigarette butts collected is equal to nearly ninety-five thousand (94,626) packs of cigarettes.
  • The eight million pounds of trash collected during the 2010 Cleanup would cover about 170 football fields.

Highlighted Results from the Past 25 Years of Cleanups

  • Fifty-three million cigarettes/cigarette filters that have been found would fill 100 Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • Appliances collected over 25 years of Cleanups (117,356) would fill 32,600 dump trucks.
  • Over 863 thousand (863,135) diapers would be enough to put one on every child born in the UK last year.
  • Over the past 25 years, more than eight and a half million (8,763,377) volunteers have removed one hundred and forty-five million (144,606,491) pounds of trash in 152 countries and locations.
  • Volunteers have collected enough cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons over 25 years to host a picnic for 2 million people.

Ocean Conservancy is building a new Trash Free Seas Alliance to bring people together to find solutions. Ocean Conservancy welcomes industries, communities and governments to collaborate on innovative ways to secure a future of Trash Free Seas.

Graphics, photos and video for media reports are available at oceanconservancy.org/iccmedia.

My very distracted ICCS Otters

It’s 10am this Saturday morning, and Oi Yee is giving an impromptu lecture about taxidermy in Lab 7 amongst a background of preserved specimens, while the rest of the ICCS Otters listen in fascination.

Although the clock is ticking, I figure I can achieve my agenda so am letting this spontaneous session run away as moments like these are precious.

This morning, Oi Yee provided an inspired performance, drawing on stories dating back to the 1960’s. The older teaching specimens in Lab 7, many of which she had prepared, played a supporting role – fish, birds, mammals and the crab from Jessica’s dissection.

An engaged audience spurs on a speaker and this group was agog and peppered her with questions, exploring the complex world of taxidermy.

Stepping forward to volunteer includes moments like these. As a coordinator, I have to strike a balance between achieving the meeting agenda and embracing learning and/or socialising opportunities. So I buffer time into each of our meetings to achieve this whilst keeping an eye on the clock. It’s how we grow together.


L-R: Teo Kah Ming, Kok Oi Yee, Jocelyn Sze, Jessica Ker,
Ng Kai Scene, Cheong Wei Siong and Andy Dinesh.

SAS celebrates 20 years of ICCS by tackling a new site: Kranji East Mangrove

This year will be the 20th for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and fittingly, 20-year stalwart Singapore American School will not be resting on their laurels, but tackling a new site which promises a heavy load. Their site for the past decade at Kranji Mangrove along Kranji Nature Trail will be inaccessible in September to undergo works under the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve masterplan.

As we reviewed the north-west shore last year, a candidate site for SAS was the Kranji East Mangrove, just east of the lip of the Kranji Reservoir. It is a tiny but picturesque pocket, with piles of trash lingering along the high water strand line, largely out of sight and waiting all these years for some hardy souls to tackle the problem.


Runkeeper plot of the recce this morning


Kranji East Mangrove


Gunung Pulai towers over Sungei Skudai River in the distance

There is an old tradition of allocating SAS students from the Middle and High Schools the toughest sites in the ICCS which require sensitive hands and careful data collation. This site fit the bill and it took us just a few minutes to decide that there was enough at the site to keep the expected 100-150 students from SAS busy in September.

The few of us on the morning recce were Organisers/Site Captains from the Singapore American School, Martha Began and Steve Early, Recce Captain Andy Dinesh and Deputy North-West Zone Captain Lee Bee Yan. The third SAS Organiser and founder of ICCS, Kate Thome was unfortunately called away so will visit the site later.


Dinesh, Martha, Bee Yan and Steve making their way into the site

Later in May and June, the north-west zone coordination team will map the site in detail and divide it up into sectors, identify an assembly area, insertion points to reduce trampling, evaluate the trash load and type to ensure volunteers in each sector are safely prepared and prepare a safety plan and update logistic requirements (gunny sacks for glass) – amongst other things.

We will ask NEA for support for bulk trash removal and get permission from the industry nearby to get permission to access the plot through their backyard – no more crawling past concertina wire each time we visit! SAS will revisit the site with us in May when the detailed recce is done and we will brief Sector Leaders in August before operations commence in September.

Once September’s cleanup is done and the procedure validated, we are likely to open the site to year-round, small-scale cleanups. A slow and steady approach is adopted with all mangrove sites to minimise impact and after several years, the difference will be apparent.


Part of the trash line; it’s worse in some parts!

Ria Tan, after one of her inter-tidal patrols, highlighted the problem of this site on just recently on Wild Shores Singapore. More than half of her post was devoted to the sight of the trash. The accumulations over years is considerable.

We have so very few precious pockets of mangrove and we’d like to subject each to some tender loving care. And what better way for SAS to celebrate 20 years of the ICCS than to lift the curse marine debris in Kranji East Mangrove.


Some TLC is in order for Kranji East Mangrove