The 2016 Ocean Trash Index – what 800,000 volunteers in 92 countries generated during ICCS2015!

More than eight million kilograms of trash was collected by nearly 800,000 volunteers in 92 countries during Ocean Conservancy’s 2015 International Coastal Cleanup. The data is reported in Ocean Conservancy’s 2016 Ocean Trash Index which was released yesterday which you can access at

Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Trash Index is the world’s largest item-by-item, location-by-location database of trash found in near-shore environments, representing the efforts of more than 11.5 million volunteers over 30 years!

The solid pollutant of greatest concern in the marine environment is plastic waste with the top five most commonly collected items being cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws. This pattern is true of Singapore, but we see our list topped by expanded polystyrene (EPS) or styrofoam pieces.

2016 Ocean Trash Top 10

Of the 92 countries, the turnout in the The Philippines was highlighted for good reason –  more than quarter a million Filipinos retrieved more than 400,000 pieces of trash over nearly 1,000 kilometers of shoreline, weighing more than 300 tonnes. What a big relief for their shores!

Singapore’s entry this year is blank because the 2015 cleanup was cancelled due to the poor air condition caused by the transboundary haze pollution. Besides Singapore, Dominica’s cleanup was also cancelled, due to a tropical storm.

2016 is the 25th year of the International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore. Let’s hope we’ll be spared the haze, as volunteers are usually able to clear between 14 – 20 tonnes of trash from our shores. The marine environment certainly does deserve the relief coastal cleanup volunteers provide.

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Goodbye Seba Sheavly, tireless advocate for the marine environment

It was a with a saddened heart that I learnt of Seba Sheavly’s passing from Ocean Conservancy’s Sonya Besteiro.

sebaSeba Sheavly and Jean Michel Cousteau
Thanks to Annie Crawley for use of the photo

Sonya had corresponded with international organisers as staff of the Centre for Marine Conservation from the 90’s (see this CNN interview from 1999).

CMC later became the Ocean Conservancy and continues to coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup. Meanwhile, as founder of Sheavly Consultants, Seba remained involved and contributed to several papers on marine debris.

John B. Davis, President of the Marine Affairs Research and Education (MARE), USA wrote (04 Jun 2012):

“Dear MarineDebris.Info community,

I’m writing with the sad news that Seba Sheavly, a leader in the marine debris field for two decades, passed away last Thursday after a long battle with cancer and lung disease. She was a keystone figure in our community.

Seba worked tirelessly as a marine environmental advocate. She edited or contributed to most of the major marine debris-related reports of recent years, including ones from UNEP, UNESCO, GESAMP, US EPA, and the National Academy of Sciences.

As principal of Sheavly Consultants, she provided advisory services to multiple institutions: the European Commission, Project AWARE Foundation, NOAA Marine Debris, Ocean Conservancy, Blue Ocean Sciences, SEA/WHOI, Project Kaisei, Clean Virginia Waterways, and many more. In her final days, Seba was developing an online education tool on marine debris in the Caribbean.

I met Seba in person at last year’s International Marine Debris Conference, an event that she was instrumental in convening despite her illness at the time. What impressed me most was her willingness to work behind the scenes to get things done, without asking for personal accolades.

A scholarship fund is being established in Seba’s honor. Guidance on donating will be posted soon.

Best wishes,

I thought I’d remember the passing of this tireless warrior for the marine environment by suggesting we read (or re-read) her 2010 “Lessons Learnt” report prepared for the EPA:

I think she’d like that.

RIP Seba.

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

Kate Sherman, ICC Project Coordinator at Ocean Conservancy moves on to Oregon State University

Kate Sherman, the International Coastal Cleanup’s (ICC) Project Coordinator has left the Ocean Conservancy as of 25th May 2010. Here are excerpts from an email by Sonya Besteiro, the Associate Director of the ICC, who wrote to inform us of her move:

“Kate, otherwise known as our data guru, developed and implemented the online data reporting tool and the online registration system. She has literally shepherded the ICC into the 21st century and has spent countless hours training you on these state-of-the-art online tools.

Kate has been accepted by Oregon State University to work on her Masters in Marine Resource Management, specializing in GIS and Remote Sensing, beginning this summer. She will take what she has learned here and parlay it into a degree and a career in marine science, especially as related to data collection, analysis and research.

Kate will be working with Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation creating a GIS database and mapping all the marine research that is being conducted off the coast of Oregon. And hopefully in her free time, she’ll organize her fellow students to participate in the 2010 ICC.

We will miss Kate terribly, but wish her the best as she embarks on a new chapter in her academic career. “

We have been communicating with Kate since 2008 and have appreciated the improvements in data reporting and sharing she has introduced. We will miss having her as part of the ICC team at Washington and wish her all the best for her future which will always involve caring for the planet.

Kate Sherman @ Ocean Conservancy.
Photo by Alvin Wong.

News from the US: “on the need for a national ocean policy”

03 Nov 2009 – Ocean Conservancy EVP Dennis Kelso to Testify Before Congress on National Ocean Policy and Marine Spatial Planning
Momentum builds for a national plan to manage our ocean: Administration set to act next month; Congress should support this critical effort

Washington, DC— On November 4th, Dennis Kelso, Ocean Conservancy Executive Vice President, will join Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Nancy Sutley in testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on the need for a national ocean policy. Mr. Kelso will emphasize the urgency and opportunity for Congress to move quickly to adopt an approach called marine spatial planning for balancing the many existing and emerging pressures on our ocean.

Momentum is building for a national plan to manage our oceans. In June, President Obama created the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to provide counsel on how to protect and use our ocean wisely, with a specific charge to develop a framework for marine spatial planning. That plan is due by December 9th. The Task Force has already created a National Ocean Council, which if it fulfills its mandate with the support of Congress, will make historic progress for the health of the ocean.

The conservation community is united in support of the Task Force’s work. Just this week, Ocean Conservancy, in coordination with seven leading environmental organizations, developed recommendations for improving ocean governance through marine spatial planning. The recommendations have been submitted to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

According to the letter, Ocean Conservancy and others in the conservation community call for a marine spatial planning framework that would “protect, maintain, and restore coastal, marine, and Great Lakes ecosystem health (as is stated in the National Ocean Policy), including protecting important marine ecological areas” and would foster sustainable development to the extent that it is consistent with this goal. The recommendations detail approaches to marine spatial planning, and who should have authority and involvement.

Mr. Kelso issued the following statement about the upcoming hearing and recommendations to the Administration:

“It’s time to change the way we manage our ocean. Our ocean is getting more crowded with each growing demand and we are putting great strains on fragile ocean ecosystems. Marine spatial planning will bring order to the ocean and provide a framework for balancing ocean conservation and other interests. The recommendations made to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and in my testimony will make marine spatial planning effective and efficient – they also call for a participatory process because there are a number of people who rely on the ocean.

“The ocean is our life support system – it provides much of the air we breathe and food we eat, and it regulates our climate. We need a comprehensive planning approach to managing our ocean, so that we can protect it for future generations while supporting our economy. These recommendations are a first step in making the vision of thriving ocean ecosystems and coastal economies a reality,” concluded Mr. Kelso.

Signatories in addition to Ocean Conservancy are Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Ocean Champions, Pew Environment Group, The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund.

Hearing Details:
The Future of Ocean Governance: Building Our National Ocean Policy
Wednesday, November 4, 2009 10:00 AM, SR – 253

President Obama’s memorandum creating the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force can be viewed here: