You know the usual suspects of ocean and beach pollution. I remember my mom cutting up plastic six-pack rings to keep wildlife safe when I was a kid. And more recently, plastic straws became enemy number one with massive movements to ban them around the globe. But now, the Ocean Conservancy is urging the public to focus on another type of plastic waste that's an increasingly a significant concern: plastic cutlery.
The nonprofit environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy has just released the results of its 2018 International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), and for the first time since being added as its own category in 2013, plastic cutlery ranked as one of the top ten most common items during the annual trash collection event. As a result, after encouraging people to "Skip the Straw" since 2014, the organization is adding a new initiative to its repertoire: "Quit the Cutlery."
"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," Nicholas Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, announced. "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."
With the 34th annual ICC just a few weeks away on Saturday, September 21, Ocean Conservancy has released all the details from last year's Cleanup: 1,080,358 volunteers in more than 120 countries collected 23.3 million pounds of trash. Cigarette butts topped the list at approximately 5.7 million collected, followed by 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) finishing off as the top five worst offenders.
Though "Quit the Cutlery" is a motto people can follow in their day-to-day lives, Ocean Conservancy is encouraging people to help physically hit the beaches and waterways to remove trash as part of this year's ICC. "What makes plastic pollution so unique among the challenges facing our ocean is how visible it is, and how everyone can be a force for change," Allison Schutes, director of Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, explained. "Taking part in a cleanup is often an eye-opening moment for volunteers that leads to year-round and lifelong stewardship." You can register for the event at signuptocleanup.org.
Check out our picks for eco-friendly picnic supplies here.