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Trash Collections Show Plastics Now Dominate Ocean Litter

A family sits on the sand at Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla, CA in this un...

Credit: Milan Kovacevic

Above: A family sits on the sand at Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla, CA in this undated photo.

The Ocean Conservancy reported that plastic dominated the kinds of trash volunteers picked-up during last year's International Coastal Cleanup day.

Clean water advocates say the planet may be seeing a new coastal pollution trend — 2017 was the first year that the top 10 items picked up during an international clean-up day were made from plastic.

The top items used to be rope, paper, and beverage cans, but that began changing 30 years ago. Now cigarette butts, food wrappers and plastic beverage bottles top the list.

"Based on science that continues to be published in the peer-reviewed literature, we do know that there is more plastic being put into the ocean each year," said Nicholas Mallos, the director of the Trash Free Sea program at the Ocean Conservancy.

More than 790,000 people around the world helped pick up trash near rivers and the ocean on last year's international clean-up day. The turnout in California was pretty strong.

"More than 66,000 Californians came out on coastal clean-up day and moved more than 800,000 pounds of trash from the beaches and the rivers. So again, a truly remarkable effort in California," Mallos said.

To reduce the amount of plastic litter, Mallos suggested people use reusable bags and bottles and that they decide not to ask for a plastic straw when dining out. Plastic straws were the No. 7 item on the list.

The next international clean-up day is in September.

Much of the trash finding its way into the world's oceans is plastic.


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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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