Thursday, July 21, 2011

July Conservation Tip

Beach Clean Up

The 4th of July weekend was one of the few summer weekends here in Half Moon Bay that were not foggy but wonderfully sunny. This and the long weekend brought tons of people over here, all enjoying the beach. And so did we. But as our older son came back home from a beach party, he was distraught by all the garbage he had seen, left behind by accident or careless minds.

So both boys decided to go out on July 5th and collect as much garbage as they can. A noble undertaking, so I equipped them with heavy duty garbage bags and gloves.
1 1/2 hours later they came back with 3 filled 42 gallon garbage bags weighing together 48 lb.! Filled with as small things as cigarette butts to broken down air mattresses and everything in between.

Over dinner that night we figured out, that if every family household would clean up for only one hour per year, some part of their community, that with an estimated 75 million households, up to 3.6 billion lb of garbage per year could be taken off the environment. Even better would be, if nobody would litter, or leave his/her stuff 3 feet away from a garbage seen here:

I then asked them which item they found the most, expecting to hear soda cans or the like, but was surprised to hear it was cigarette butts! This is especially disturbing since each cigarette contains more than 3,900 chemicals including nicotine, cyanide, ammonia, cadmium, acetone and arsenic, and cigarette butts contain the toxic residue of these.
It is know that seabirds, turtles and some fish do ingest butts. As the butts swell in the stomach of the animal they cause false satiation. The animal, believing it is full, refrains from eating and eventually starves to death.(1)

A bit of research on this topic revealed even more...

At a national shoreline clean up in Canada findings from that day are showing that 367,010 cigarette butts were collected across Canada. Cigarette butts made up the single largest item collected. Just as the boys did here.
But the picture doesn’t look better elsewhere.

According to Cleanup Australia, out of 24 billion cigarettes sold in Australia each year, 7 billion of these are littered. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts worldwide are littered each year.(2)

In the US, Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the country. Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup reports that “cigarette butts have been the single most recovered item since collections began.” (2)

An excerpt from a report by Smoke Free Oregon:

“…Tumors found in turtles returning to beaches to lay eggs in the sand have been linked to cigarette butt pollution in Hawaii. Sea lions, elephant seals and harbor seals haul out daily on beaches to absorb the heat from the sun, give birth and feed their newborn pups. Crabs, clams, starfish and sea urchins are commonly found on nearly all beaches. According to the UN International Maritime Organization, 177 species of marine animals and 111 species of shorebirds are affected by tobacco litter causing unnecessary malnutrition, starvation, and death (Source: California Coastal Commission 2003, UN International Maritime Organization 2003).” (2)

(1)Whales alive

(2)Sea Forever

The conclusion?

Take only photographs, leave only footprints.

Maybe next time you go to the beach or park, take a bag and collect what others left.

If you smoke, PLEASE don't litter!

This way we all can enjoy clean beaches...

..and marine animals clean oceans.

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