New King Of Trash As Cigarette Butts Falls On Annual Coastal Clean-Up List

September 8, 2020

© Fabien Monteil | Dreamstime

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Move over cigarette butts, there’s a new king of litter.  While some estimates suggest there are 4.5 trillion cigarette butts that are incorrectly disposed of each year, there's an item that tops discarded butts.  According to the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit that has been carrying out coastal clean-ups since 1986, food wrappers were the most collected item from the annual cleanup, a sign of how huge our single-use packaging problem has become. Each September, the Ocean Conservancy organizes the International Coastal Cleanup, a global effort to rid the world’s beaches and waterways of trash. For 2019’s cleanup, more than 940,000 volunteers in 116 countries collected nearly 32.5 million pieces of trash.  That number includes a record 4.7 million food wrappers, 4.2 million cigarette butts, 1.8 million plastic bottles, 1.5 million plastic bottle caps, and more than 940,000 straws and drink stirrers. While cigarette butts remain a challenge, food wrappers pose a bigger one considering smoking levels are continuing to drop. Not the same for food wrappers. Over the years, the Ocean Conservancy’s cleanup has revealed our switch to single-use plastic and its detrimental effect on pollution. In the early days of the cleanups, glass bottles, metal caps, and paper bags were prevalent in the top collected items. Over the last decade, though, they’ve fallen out of the top five, and their plastic counterparts moved up the list.  In 2017, plastic made up the entire top 10 list of collected trash for the first time. The organization says the new king of trash highlights the need for different types of packaging and better management of this waste.

SOURCE: Fast Company

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