It is rare to visit a beach and not see several items of trash lying in the sand. I don’t think I have ever had the pleasure of visiting a beach without encountering discarded plastic wrappers, plastic bottles, cigarette butts and fishing line. Having studied Marine Biology I truly ‘see’ the trash lying on beaches and I start to think of the consequences such a small item can do to such a large ocean. However I feel most people just filter out the sight of trash – out of sight, out of mind.

If there were items of trash lying in your garden you would pick them up and put them in the bin, so why when we visit beaches do we not do this? Are we too lazy? Are we too posh? Or do we simply just not understand?

I have always known trash on the beaches and in the oceans is bad, my friends and family have always known it is bad, but do they really know why?  I could provide you with a list of the negative impacts of trash on beaches in the oceans but there is so much information out there about it just a quick search on Google and you will have all you need to know.

Instead I am going to focus on a more positive note – how are some people combatting the ocean trash problem. 80% of trash in the oceans comes from land, so what better place to start helping the oceans than removing trash from land. There are many initiatives out there to combat this but I would like to tell you about the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Clean-Up Day which is held worldwide on the 3rd Saturday of every September.

Anybody from any country can participate in International Coastal Clean-Up Day, you can check on line where large events are taking place and join one, or sign up online and create your own event for an area you want to protect. In 2013, 648,015 volunteers picked up 12.3 million pounds of trash from the world’s coastlines. The 2014 International Coastal Clean-Up Day was held on the 20th September 2014 and The Reef-World Foundation joined forces with the Stairway Foundation Inc to celebrate. However due to an incoming typhoon our event was rearranged to 5th October 2014.

The belated event was held at Minolo Bay, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines and started with two presentations being given to local children and adults who had volunteered to help with the clean-up. They were provided with information about coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves as well as information about the impact of trash on these environments. They then broke off into groups to discuss how they could reduce the impact of trash on the marine environment and each group made a pledge to the environment. Grace Pelino, the Fisheries Officer then gave an informative presentation on the legislation in place to protect the marine environment. This educational outreach section highlighted the biggest lesson I have learned whilst working as an intern for The Reef-World Foundation; ‘you can’t stop a person doing something without educating them about its impacts and providing an alternative’.

Following on from the presentation, all the volunteers moved to a beach and mangrove area which was covered in trash. We spent just over 30 minutes at the location before running out of bags for the trash – however we did remove a whopping 450kgs in that short time. This really highlights the impact a small group of people can have in a small time. Although we didn’t ‘save the world’s oceans’ with our one clean-up event, we provided an education to local people about how they can help protect their surroundings and we made positive steps in combatting the ocean trash problem.

I would really like to encourage people to participate in events such as these; it was hard work but really good fun and rewarding. I appreciate one day of cleaning each year won’t solve the ocean trash problem but it will help. However you can help to protect the oceans every day of the year by collecting just a few items of trash from a beach or from the streets which will prevent them being blown into the sea.

Interestingly……did you know if each person on the planet could clean 0.05km2 of the ocean, it could be completely trash free!