Cigarette butts are no longer the most common beach trash

“The Ocean Conservancy dataset is a very important snapshot of plastic pollution for anyone concerned about this global issue,” says Jenna Jambeck. The engineering professor at the University of Georgia is a National Geographic Fellow. “I’ve used this data since I started researching this topic 19 years ago.”

The results of the 2019 clean-up were measured by group statisticians, as usual, using terms relevant to the litter-polluted ecosystem: Waste collectors found enough straw for 322 octopuses to drink eight juices a day for a year. Enough plastic cutlery to serve a three-course meal for 66,000 sharks. The volunteers also collected enough fishing line for a seabird to fish from 88 kilometers above the ground.

As usual, while cleaning 39,358 kilometers of shore – from Asia and the Pacific to the North Atlantic to South America – some very intriguing objects were also found. A garden gnome appeared on a beach in Japan: evidence of a ubiquitous presence of its kind. Other finds include: a barbecue grill in Hong Kong, a bathtub in Jamaica, an ironing board in Venezuela, a sofa in western Mexico, a bag golf course in Norway and a tiki torch in California.

The cleaning takes place on the third Saturday of September, this year as well. But because of the pandemic, volunteers are encouraged to work alone or in small groups — or skip the beach altogether and focus on reducing waste in their homes.

The article was originally published in English on

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