In only a day or two last fall, 828 volunteers in Louisiana helped clean up 7,800 pounds of trash from beach fronts and waterways in five parishes as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
The results of that effort, released Tuesday, show the Louisiana residents were among more than 500,000 volunteers from 97 countries to pick up 10 million pounds of trash along more than 17,000 miles of coastline between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31.
“At the end of the day, we’re seeing an exorbitant amount of trash on our beaches,” said Nicholas Mallos, conservation biologist and marine debris specialist with Ocean Conservancy.
The trash collected in 2012 was the third-highest pound total recorded since 1986, Mallos said. He said further analysis would be required to determine if that’s because there is more trash, or because more volunteers are working.
For example, Mallos said, California ranks among the top for the number of pounds of trash collected in the United States because it gets the most volunteers.
But he said that doesn’t mean it’s dirtier than other states.
In Louisiana, as in other states and around the world, the most commonly found items were plastic drink bottles, caps and lids, food wrappers and containers, and cigarettes or cigarette filters.
“These everyday items we use are the same we see on beaches and waterways around the world,” Mallos said. “First and foremost, we found a lot of trash.”
In Orleans Parish, 321 people volunteered to pick up more than 18 miles of coastline and waterways and hauled away 3,200 pounds of trash. The same items that made the top list statewide were also the top items in the parish, according to information gathered by the Ocean Conservancy.
Areas cleaned up included Bayou St. John, City Park, Lakeshore Drive and Pontchartrain Beach.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ben “The Admiral” Goliwas, 70, of New Orleans, was scanning the Gulf shore for water quality and trash problems as he sailed aboard a boat traveling from New Orleans to Apalachicola, Fla.
Goliwas, Louisiana coordinator for the Ocean Conservancy’s annual coastal cleanup effort, was a guest on a research vessel of Capt. Charles Kropp, president of the Marine Research and Assistance group.
“What we’re doing is literally picking up what others should have taken care of in the first place,” Goliwas said. “We should have a daily event because it’s required.”
The solution to the trash problem?
“More people throwing less trash away,” he said.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, 37 volunteers picked up 200 pounds of trash around the LSU lakes. Although not coastal, these waterways eventually lead to larger waterways, the ocean and eventually the beach.
“Streams and rivers, certainly that’s a major source of trash to the ocean,” Mallos said.
The key to reducing the problem of trash ending up in waterways, Mallos said, is to reduce the amount of trash produced in the first place by doing things like using reusable water bottles or reusable shopping bags.
The only sure way to stop the litter is to stop it at the source, he said.
Although someone using a reusable water bottle may seem like a very small action, taken collectively around the world, it can have a large impact, he said.
“Ocean trash is a personal matter,” he said. “It’s not just enough to clean up. We all have a role to play.”
The next cleanup will be held on Sept. 21. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation also will be conducting its 24th annual beach sweep in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy’s day.
More information is at http://www.saveourlake.org/beach-sweep.php.
More information about the 2012 Ocean Conservancy cleanup available at www.oceanconservancy.org.
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