Nine of the top ten items retrieved from beach cleanups are related to food and drink.
Food packaging remains the second most common trash item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s annual beach cleanup in 2018.
And now for the first time, plastic forks, knives, and spoons have made the list, this is according to the group’s new report.
Aside from food packaging—more than 3.7 million individual wrappers were collected—the list of disposable plastics includes straws, stirrers, cutlery, bottles and caps, grocery bags and other plastic bags (for food and other uses), lids, cups, and plates.
The exception is cigarette butts, which contain plastic filters, and has remained the No. 1 item for many years.
“Cigarette butts are a separate issue and they win the race every year,” says George Leonard, the Ocean Conservancy’s chief scientist.
“If you run down the rest of the top ten list, what strikes me is that the vast majority are not recyclable. To the extent we talk about recycling as a solution to ocean plastic problems, it would have to get to 50 or 90 percent, which is a huge lift and gets complicated very quickly,” he says.
The 2018 cleanup drew more than a million people for the first time.
They collected more than 23.3 million pounds of trash on beaches in more than 120 nations, and catalogued nearly a million separate items, creating a snapshot of nearly everything humans make and use.
The cleanup collection included more than 69,000 toys, more than 16,000 appliances, a chandelier, an artificial Christmas tree, a garage door, and a cash register.